Profile: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


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The Independent Online

Doyle is enjoying something of a renaissance, is he not?

It's impossible to escape ACD and his chief creation, Sherlock Holmes, at the moment. The House of Silk, a new Holmes novel by Anthony Horowitz, is in the charts; Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, starring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law, has been a hit at the box office and the hugely popular BBC version, with Benedict Cumberbatch, returns to our screens tomorrow.

His heirs must be rolling in it.

You'd think so, but it would appear that the Conan Doyle legacy doesn't have the financial weight to solve what has become a most curious incident. Undershaw, the author's Surrey home near Hindhead, is at risk of being broken up into flats. It's a case that's far from elementary and could probably benefit from a bit of input from the master detective himself.

Why is Undershaw important?

It's where Doyle wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles and where he entertained the likes of JM Barrie, Bram Stoker and EW Hornung, author of the Raffles stories. More than 80 years later, it fell into the hands of a property speculator and is now a derelict mess. Waverley District Council gave permission for three flats in the house and five within the grounds. As you might imagine, the literary world and beyond was aghast.

Will it be saved?

The Undershaw Preservation Trust has received the support of Mark Gatiss and Stephen Fry. The latter urged the council to "reconsider what future ages will adjudge a foolish, short-sighted and wanton act of vandalism".