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

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama


Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living