Book review / Hope's first case

The Doctor, The Detective And Arthur Conan Doyle by Martin Booth, Hodder pounds 20

The Case of Conan Doyle (writes Dr Watson, or, as he was provisionally named, Ormond Sacker) was one of the most intriguing ever to come the way of Sherlock Holmes or, as he nearly was, Sherrington Hope. It began in the August dog days of the year 189-, when Holmes had just returned from tracking down a cocaine dealer and buying up his entire stock. "Tell me, Watson," he remarked, tossing aside the latest hardback from Mssrs Hodder & Stoughton, "what you know about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle."

"Conan Doyle?" I queried, oiling the revolver I knew I always needed when Holmes asked this kind of question.

" 'Doyle' really," replied the Great Detective. "Oddly enough for a no-nonsense chappie who was going to refuse his knighthood until his mummy told him that would be rude, his name might not have been quite as double- barrelled as he gave out. But you will find his byline in that back-number of Gas & Water Gazette. "

"Oh, that Conan Doyle!" I cried. "His first commissioned article covered the subject of 'Testing gas pipes for leaks', did it not? I know precious little apart from the fact that he was born in Edinburgh in 1859 to poor though respectable parents: that is, an artistic father turned alcoholic civil servant and a self-denying mother. After going to a school run by sadistic priests, he studied medicine at Edinburgh University. He spent short periods as the surgeon on a ship which traded in umbrellas. When he set himself up as a GP, his first patient turned out to be the man who had come to read the gas meter and his practice never really took off. A keen sportsman, he was a skiing pioneer. He was also known to the law, appearing for the defence in the case of R v Roy the Dog, when his collie was up on a charge of sheep-slaughter. There was something about fairies, too," I added. "He was convinced there were several at the bottom of someone's garden. He was heavily involved in medium studies, ESP and so on."

"Let us hope that his first wife does not return from beyond the grave to bring up the subject of the second Mrs Doyle," snapped Holmes grimly, "a woman whom he had long loved while still caring for his terminally ill first spouse. But, unless I am very much mistaken, we have reached that point in the conversation when I say, 'Unless I am very much mistaken, here he is upon the stair ...' "

At this juncture a tall, athletic, moustached man crashed through the door and hurled himself at Holmes. Scarcely had I put a .45 bullet through my own foot than our intruder had been knocked to the floor and trussed up with his own stethoscope.

"Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle," sneered Holmes, "I charge you with attempted murder - twice. The evidence is here in this highly readable biography by Mr Martin Booth. Watson and I were too successful. Readers queued round the block for the latest story in Strand Magazine. But you decided that this was interfering with your reputation as the writer of historical epics like The White Company and Sir Nigel. You became careless: was it 'John' or 'James' Watson? Then you shifted from the seven per cent solution - the strength of the cocaine you inflicted upon me - to the final solution."

"I paid my debt to society," Doyle muttered. "I killed you off on the Reichenbach Falls, causing readers to wear black armbands and cancel their subscriptions. But I brought you back to life in The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Return of Sherlock Holmes."

"What I had in mind was a suggestion raised by the excellent Mr Booth. You received pounds 35 for each of the first six short stories. When you demanded 50 sovereigns for every one thereafter, were you seeing what the market would bear - or quoting a price that you hoped would be refused, giving you an excuse to drop the inhabitants of 221B Baker Street for good?"

"Are you seriously suggesting, Holmes, that we are not real people but figments of another's imagination?" I burst out. "That will be news to the folk who address letters to you at Baker Street and ask you to solve real cases."

"We exist as much as any single character in popular fiction," replied Holmes. "But I must put one more question to Sir Arthur - about the dog."

"The Baskervilles' hound?" asked the author, "or the dog that did not bark in the night?"

"No," retorted Holmes, "your collie Roy, in the dock for sheep-worrying."

"Not guilty," smiled Conan Doyle. "He padded out of the court without a stain on his character, thanks to my handling of the case. It's elementary when you know how."

Arts and Entertainment
Crime watch: Cara Delevingne and Daniel Brühl in ‘The Face of an Angel’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
music Malik left the Asian leg of the band's world tour after being signed off with stress last week
News
Author J.K. Rowling attends photocall ahead of her reading from 'The Casual Vacancy' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on September 27, 2012 in London, England.
peopleNot the first time the author has defended Dumbledore's sexuality
News
‘The Late Late Show’ presenter James Corden is joined by Mila Kunis and Tom Hanks for his first night as host
news
Arts and Entertainment
Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat and Blackberry Wine, wrote a blog post attacking the app and questioning its apparent 'strong Christian bias'
books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
News
Brooke Magnanti believes her reputation has been damaged by the claim
books
Arts and Entertainment
A large fire has broken out in London's historic Battersea Arts Centre
art
Arts and Entertainment
Orla Brady as Anne Meredith, MyAnna Buring as Elizabeth Quinn and Joanna Vanderham as Katherine McVitie in Banished
tvReview: Despite the gritty setting, this drama is as fluffy and soppy as a soap opera
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and co-director Richard Glatzer, standing, on the set during the filming of ‘Still Alice’ in New York
film
Arts and Entertainment
Great British Sewing Bee finalist Matt Chapple
tvReview: He wowed the judges with an avant garde dress
Arts and Entertainment
Driven to the edge: 'Top Gear' producer Oisin Tymon is said to have had a row with Clarkson
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nazi officer Matthias Schoenaerts embarks on an affair with married French woman Michelle Williams in 'Suite Francaise'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Prime movers: Caitriona Balfe (centre) and the cast of Outlander
TV
News
Feasting with panthers: Keynes
books
Arts and Entertainment
Strung out: Mumford & Sons
music
Arts and Entertainment
Avant-garde: Bjork
music
Arts and Entertainment
Despite a decade of reform, prosecutions and convictions of rape has remained consistently low
arts + entsAcademic and author Joanna Bourke in warning to arts world
Arts and Entertainment
Electro Velvet, made up of Alex Larke and Bianca Nicholas, will represent the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015
music
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss