This weeks instalment of my blog series about Crime novels, The A-Z of Vintage Crime Fiction, deals delightfully with the letter D. D is for Doyle. As in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The creator of the one and only Sherlock Holmes!
Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh in 1859. The Conan part of his name is a middle name, added to reflect the name of his God Father, Michael Conan. Throughout his early life Arthur was just plain old Arthur Doyle but he started referring to himself as Arthur Conan Doyle after school. He was knighted as Arthur Doyle though his second wife called herself Jean Conan Doyle.
Doyle was a trained Doctor and set up practices in Portsmouth and London, the latter being an ophthalmology practice which apparently never had a patient! Doyle used the time waiting for one to write.
Doyle wrote a lot of stories including many well thought of pieces of historical fiction but, of course, he is best known for the creation of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson.
The first Sherlock novel, A Study in Scarlet, was published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual in 1887 to much acclaim. The second novel, The Sign of Four, was commissioned by US magazine Lippincott in 1890. Lippincott decided to publish an English version of the magazine and dined with Doyle and Oscar Wilde one night to persuade them to write for him, Rudyard Kipling couldn’t make it that night though do go on to provide work. Doyle and Wilde got on famously.
Sherlock Holmes was based on Doyle’s university professor Joseph Bell.
Sherlock appeared in four novels and 56 short stories.
Doyle caused public outrage in 1893 when he killed off Sherlock along with Moriarty at the Richenbach Falls in the story The Final Solution. Doyle felt trapped by the character and wanted to write better work. Sherlock was a commercial success though. 20,000 people cancelled their subscription to The Strand magazine following the outrage!
In 1901 Doyle was inspired to write a novel based on an old local story set on the moors. Eventually he realised that the hero in the piece needed to be Sherlock and thus he was revitalised, though at this point he was reincarnated as the story was to be an early one from the Watson and Holmes annals.
Eventually though Sherlock came back to life as it turned out that his life was in such danger that he had to pretend to have died alongside Moriarty.
The last short story was published in 1927. Doyle died in 1930 in his back garden in Crowborough, East Sussex.
He is buried in a little church yard in the New Forest, Minstead. I happened upon his grave one summer when I was in the area searching for the grave of Alice Liddell (Alice in Wonderland).
Sherlock Holmes remains to this day popular in crime fiction and was certainly important in the creation of the genre. Edgar Allen Poe’s Detective is mentioned in The Study in Scarlet so he didn’t quite start it!
I am moving through the Sherlock Holmes stories and have downloaded the works on Audible, currently listening to The Sign of Four. All are read by the inimitable Stephen Fry and I have to say my use of one credit to get this whole lot seems an utter bargain!!!! (I subscribe so get a credit a month for £7.99. The retail price for the full works is about £70)
You’ll perhaps have seen my previous book reviews for The Study in Scarlet and The Hound of the Baskervilles, the latter which will definitely be one of my favourite books of 2017.
I am absolutely delighted to have read some of the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle this year, The Hound of the Baskervilles is an utter masterpiece!
What is your favourite Holmes story?