On Conan Doyle: Or, The Whole Art of Storytelling (Writers on Writers)
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A passionate lifelong fan of the Sherlock Holmes adventures, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Michael Dirda is a member of The Baker Street Irregulars--the most famous and romantic of all Sherlockian groups. Combining memoir and appreciation, On Conan Doyle is a highly engaging personal introduction to Holmes's creator, as well as a rare insider's account of the curiously delightful activities and playful scholarship of The Baker Street Irregulars.
On Conan Doyle is a much-needed celebration of Arthur Conan Doyle's genius for every kind of storytelling.
was that several years went by before I happened upon a copy of The Poison Belt (1913) in a Mexico City bazaar, during a post–high-school graduation road trip. It was a relatively chintzy paperback and also included the two late Challenger short stories, “When the World Screamed” (1928) and “The Disintegration Machine” (1929). I opened the book with considerable anticipation. Certainly, The Poison Belt begins well, neatly blending the familiar bluster, slapstick, and suspense. Professor
cattle. It was a very strange affair, one combining obvious racial animosity, vicious practical jokes, and considerable police prejudice. When he learned of the case, Conan Doyle suspected that a serious wrong had occurred and so launched a scrupulous investigation of his own, until at last he felt that “it was an insult to my intelligence to hold out any longer against the certainty that there had been an inconceivable miscarriage of justice.” His articles about the case, later published as a
Grice Pattersons in the Island of Uffa.” That odd word “in” provides the key. All in all, Sherlockian enthusiasts suddenly might be found anywhere. For a year or two I corresponded with the novelist Paul Horgan about our mutual fondness for the gossipy letters between publisher Rupert Hart-Davis and his old tutor George Lyttelton. After Horgan sent me a copy of his anthology Maurice Baring Restored, I began to seek out that neglected author’s fiction and nonfiction. Thus it was that I discovered
compels Frank to admit that he had cared for other women before he met her. How many precisely? Frank confesses to having been almost continuously infatuated with one woman or another since adolescence. Oh, really! Maude then discloses that she too has had “experiences.” Once she was left alone with a gentleman who had come to visit her mother. In short order, he had kissed her and she had kissed him back, and then he had asked her to sit upon his knee. “Yek!” exclaims Frank, appalled and
Watson. As a boy, I obviously knew nothing of Joseph Bell and little more of Arthur Conan Doyle. What mattered was simply that the Sherlock Holmes stories were even better than Tarzan movies and Green Lantern comics. Let me add that this was no mean feat. Nonetheless, the dark day inevitably dawned when I had read everything that Dr. Watson had recorded about his friend. What could I turn to next? Would I ever again discover any stories even half so good? And how would I ever find them? My