Miles Kington: When the writer becomes the star

'Usually, the fictional creation outshines the creator,' said Pranger. 'But now Conan Doyle has bounced back'

Share
Related Topics

We all groaned inwardly. Pranger was the biggest Sherlock Holmes bore we knew. Trouble was, Pranger saw Holmes as a personal rival. Pranger had been a private detective for much of his life - indeed, he was said to have learnt so many secrets about so many famous people that the establishment had only two options when he retired: have him assassinated or give him a peerage to keep him quiet. A peerage had seemed the easier, and cheaper, choice.

"Actually, it is not unprecedented to be given a peerage in return for a life in crime," he had said earlier that evening. "It happened to P D James. And Jeffrey Archer."

"What particular crimes of Archer are you thinking of?" someone asked him once.

"Vicious and violent crimes against style and grammar," chuckled Lord Pranger. "Throw another log on the fire."

It being midsummer, the fire was not alight, but we had humoured him and piled the fireplace with logs.

"What Conan Doyle business?" I said now.

"Well," said Pranger, "it's very odd when the writer becomes the star. Almost always, the fictional creation outshines the creator. Harry Potter overshadows Rowling. James Bond is big, Ian Fleming is small. Who remembers who created Tarzan? And until now Conan Doyle has been blotted out by the wretched Sherlock Holmes. But suddenly, Conan Doyle has bounced back.

"There was a novel which came out the other day by Julian Barnes, all about a real-life case in which Conan Doyle really did help to prove that a man had been wrongfully imprisoned. Conan Doyle as true life Sherlock Holmes. Good story. Surprised it hasn't been turned into a musical by Lloyd Webber or Ben Elton. And then there is this renewed attempt to prove that Conan Doyle was a murderer."

"Murderer?" said someone, surprised.

"Yes. People have always known that the idea for the story of The Hound of the Baskervilles was dreamt up by a friend of Doyle's called Fletcher Robinson. In the first edition, Doyle actually credits it to him. But when the book became a bestseller, it was too late to cut him in on the profits, because Robinson had upped and died. And there has always been a theory that Conan Doyle did away with him."

"How?"

"Slipping him various fatal drugs known only to a doctor, while Robinson was undergoing treatment for various things. They now want to dig up Robinson's corpse to test it for traces of laudanum."

"Will they find it?"

"That's not the point. The point is that Conan Doyle is being treated simultaneously as a hero, for rescuing an innocent man from prison, and as a villain, for having stolen a man's literary idea and then murdering him. Not bad for a man who has been dead himself since 1930."

"I can see what you're up to, Pranger," I said. "You're trying to bump up Doyle's reputation to do down Holmes. We all know you've always been jealous of Holmes."

"Not at all," said Pranger. "I'm just very impressed by Conan Doyle. What other crime writer has ever got someone out of prison? Has PDAlmighty Baroness James ever solved a real-life case? I don't think so. Has she even written a novel about Islamic fundamentalist crime? I don't think so."

"Did Conan Doyle ever?" I said.

"He certainly did," said Pranger. "The Tragedy of the Korosko, 1898. Set in Egypt. Features the kidnapping of Western tourists by Muslim terrorists. Way ahead of his time."

"A Sherlock Holmes mystery, was it?" said someone.

"Certainly not," said Pranger. "Holmes wouldn't have been up to it. But it reminds me of a case of my own in the 1970s. I had a practice in those days in one of the shadier parts of W11. I was visited one day by a senior member of the Tory government ..."

We had all often heard the story before, so we took the logs off the fire again, pelted him till he was unconscious and took taxis home before he could come round.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project and Quality Manager

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

£14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Recruitment Genius: Fertility Nurse

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join the ho...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicky Clarke has criticised the Duchess of Cambridge for having grey hair  

Letting one’s hair turn grey would be the most subversive Royal act

Rosie Millard
 

London’s foreign money bubble is bursting – but will we be better off?

Chris Blackhurst
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash