Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Study In Sherlock

In 1887, Beaton's Christmas Annual featured a story called A Study in Scarlet by a then-unknown doctor turned author named Arthur Conan Doyle. The story would introduce what would become one of the most beloved and iconic characters in history: one Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

Conan Doyle would go on to write a total of sixty Sherlock Holmes stories; four novels and fifty-six short stories. Most of these stories were published in The Strand magazine and, at the time of their publication, enjoyed great success in both England and the United States.

When Conan Doyle attempted to kill off the Great Detective in 1893's "The Adventure of the Final Problem", many citizens of London were so grieved by the loss that they wore black armbands of mourning. After years of public pressure, Doyle resurrected Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles, which is widely regarded as one of the best mystery novels of all-time.

My first experience with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's work came in the autumn of 1995, when I was thirteen years old. I was at an awkward place in my reading life; I'd moved on from books like Nancy Drew and the Baby-Sitters Club, but wasn't quite sure what direction I wanted my reading to take. I hoped that my World Literature class would provide some guidance.

After what was a mind-numbing section on poetry (Whitman, Longfellow, and Tennyson were, eventually, acquired tastes), the class moved on to short stories. One of the first assignments was to read a story entitled "The Red-Headed League". I read it one sitting, despite the fact that it was a multi-day assignment, and immediately sought out more Doyle stories. I read anything I could get my hands on, and by the end of 1996 I'd read the entire Sherlock Holmes canon and several of Doyle's non-Holmes short story collections. In short, I was in love.

The Holmes stories opened a brand new world to me. I devoured mystery novels, especially those set in Victorian London. I was delighted to discover the rich world of Holmes pastiches (Sherlock Holmes stories written by authors other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) which continues to introduce me to extraordinary writers.

Fourteen years later, my love for Doyle's work is as strong as ever. I've read the Sherlock Holmes stories countless times over the years, and I still find them as interesting and entertaining as I did when I experienced them for the very first time.

If you're a longtime reader of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, or if you've yet to discover his work for yourself, I sincerely hope that you'll enjoy the events this month as I honor one of my favorite authors and his legacy.

12 comments:

  1. I didn't know Arthur Conan Doyle was a doctor. His work has truly stood the test of time.

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  2. He started writing during his downtime between patients. I still find that amazing. What would have happened if he'd had a busier practice?

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  3. I look forward to the month's activities, especially with uni winding down. Once grades are submitted I hope to resettle in with ACD and Language of the Bees.

    I believe, in some respects, ACD was ahead of his time. His treatment of women, race, and identity in the canon are all very cutting edge for the era. Most importantly, however, is Holmes. Holmes was on the cutting edge of forensics for the time period. The importance of data, avoidance of biases, trace evidence, autopsy evidence, weapon evidence, and the list goes on. It is all present.

    Even today I find myself using his methods in my own work. The canon has indeed stood the test of time, possibly because the stories are more than real, but some the things in them are very applicable, even today.

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  4. Thanks for the awesome pictures.

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  5. I'll definitely follow your posts this month, I've re-read Sherlock Holmes so often that my books are all frayed and torn. I love those stories.

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  6. I'm looking forward to it! I only read my first Sherlock Holmes story three years ago in college, but I certainly love them now. I think everyone in the class was surprised when our professor told us about the mourning for him when Arthur Conan Doyle tried to kill him off. Who knew a literary character could inspire such devotion? =)

    Well deserved, though!

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  7. I've never read Doyle, although he's always fascinated me. So which one do you recommend starting with first?

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  8. Don't you just love it when you can enjoy an author over and over again through the years? It's like a life-long friendship!

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  9. I've never actually read a Sherlock novel, but I have always wanted to. I do not even want to think of the size of my TBR stack right now, and with the possibility of moving and baby coming Oy!

    I will definitely be reading and watching all the things you share this month as I'm highly interested. Maybe I'll be able to make myself a Sherlock TBR list for one day.

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  10. I still happily remember the day I received The Complete Sherlock Holmes as a gift as a teenager...many, many lovely hours reading that...

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  11. I didn't know A Study in Scarlet is his first Holmes book. I've read just one book by Doyle-The lost World. I have The hound of the Baskervilles in my TBR. I hope to get to it soon.

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  12. I have not read a lot of Sherlock Holmes. It is intimidating to me for some reason? I am glad you find so much enjoyment in the stories.

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