As a young medical student, Arthur Conan Doyle studied in Edinburgh under the vigilant eye of a diagnostic genius, Dr. Joseph Bell. Doyle often observed Bell identifying a patient's occupation, hometown, and ailments from the smallest details of dress, gait, and speech.Read more...
As a young medical student, Arthur Conan Doyle studied in Edinburgh under the vigilant eye of a diagnostic genius, Dr. Joseph Bell. Doyle often observed Bell identifying a patient's occupation, hometown, and ailments from the smallest details of dress, gait, and speech. Although Doyle was training to be a surgeon, he was meanwhile cultivating essential knowledge that would feed his literary dreams and help him develop the most iconic detective in fiction.
Michael Sims traces the circuitous development of Conan Doyle as the father of the modern mystery, from his early days in Edinburgh surrounded by poverty and violence, through his escape to University (where he gained terrifying firsthand knowledge of poisons), leading to his own medical practice in 1882. Five hardworking years later--after Doyle's only modest success in both medicine and literature--Sherlock Holmes emerged in A Study in Scarlet. Sims deftly shows Holmes to be a product of Doyle's varied adventures in his personal and professional life, as well as built out of the traditions of Edgar Allan Poe, Emile Gaboriau, Wilkie Collins, and Charles Dickens--not just a skillful translator of clues, but a veritable superhero of the mind in the tradition of Doyle's esteemed teacher.
Filled with details that will surprise even the most knowledgeable Sherlockian, Arthur and Sherlock is a literary genesis story for detective fans everywhere."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-11-28
- Reviewer: Staff
Sims (The Story of Charlottes Web) presents a concise and well-written account of the factorsboth internal and externalthat led to Arthur Conan Doyles 1887 publication of A Study in Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes story. Readers unfamiliar with the circumstances of Conan Doyles early years and the influence of one of his medical school professors will be fascinated to learn how much Holmes was based on a real person. Sims lays out the ways in which Edinburghs Dr. Joseph Bell used observation and deduction to diagnose patients after only a brief glance, in passages that read as if Dr. Watson was penning them. Sims, who is an expert on Victorian fiction, also presents historical antecedents for fictional detectives, as well as a cogent analysis of the ways in which Conan Doyle was, and was not, influenced by prior writers such as Edgar Allan Poe. He details how Conan Doyle struggled to get published before he hit gold with the creation of Holmes and Watson, who were at one point called Sherrington Hope and Ormond Sacker. Simss skill and deftness with narrative biography will lead Sherlockians to hope that he continues the story of Conan Doyles life in a future volume. (Jan.)
The adventures of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Arthur Conan Doyle was a mediocre medical doctor with an adventurous streak that could not be suppressed. “Several times in my life I have done utterly reckless things with so little motive that I have found it difficult to explain them to myself afterwards,” he wrote in his memoir. In Arthur and Sherlock, literary historian Michael Sims traces some of Doyle’s grand adventures, including expeditions to the polar icecap and Africa, and shows how they became fodder for his early prose. But travel wasn’t the only source of inspiration for Doyle’s iconic fictional sleuth, Sherlock Holmes.
Dr. Joseph Bell, who was one of Doyle’s teachers in medical school in Scotland, was so recognizable in the character of Holmes that Robert Louis Stevenson, who also studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, wrote to Doyle to inquire, “can this be my old friend Joe Bell?” Bell, a lively, intelligent man who could startle classes with uncanny observational deduction, proved a wonderful model for Holmes, who both builds on and deviates from the literary tradition of detective fiction that goes all the way back to the Bible itself. (King David, Sims suggests, is an early prototype of the detective figure.) This tradition is luminously carried on by Edgar Allan Poe, whom Sims explores in absorbing detail.
There is something in this marvelous book for every Holmes fan, and short, vivid chapters keep the pages turning. From early reviewers who couldn’t spell Doyle’s name to grand lunches with famous magazine editors alongside Oscar Wilde, Sims knows how to paint a picture that fascinates and delights. Arthur and Sherlock will take its place on the growing shelf of literary histories presented by this talented and eloquent writer.