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Our Hero

C.H. Sisson

25 January 1990
Richard Aldington: A Biography 
by Charles Doyle.
Macmillan, 379 pp., £19.95, November 1989, 0 333 46487 7
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... CharlesDoyle’s biography of Richard Aldington opens so readily at the 24 excellent photographs with which the book is illustrated that the temptation to look at them, before one gets involved with the text, is ...

One Chapter More

Leah Price: Ectoplasm

6 July 2000
Teller of Tales: The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle 
by Daniel Stashower.
Penguin, 472 pp., £18.99, February 2000, 0 7139 9373 1
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... Since Arthur Conan Doyle’s own lifetime, every mystery novelist applying to join the Detection Club in London has been required to forswear ‘Feminine Intuition, Mumbo-Jumbo and Jiggery-Pokery’ along with ‘Ghosts ...

Clues

J.I.M. Stewart

5 May 1983
A Talent to Deceive: An Appreciation of Agatha Christie 
by Robert Barnard.
Collins, 203 pp., £7.95, April 1980, 0 00 216190 7
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The Agatha Christie Hour 
by Agatha Christie.
Collins, 190 pp., £6.50, September 1982, 0 00 231331 6
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The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes 
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Allen Lane, 1122 pp., £7.95, August 1981, 0 7139 1444 0
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The Quest for Sherlock Holmes 
by Owen Dudley Edwards.
Mainstream, 380 pp., £12.50, November 1982, 0 906391 15 6
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The Unknown Conan DoyleEssays on Photography 
by John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green.
Secker, 128 pp., £8.50, November 1982, 0 436 13302 4
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The Unknown Conan DoyleUncollected Stories 
by John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green.
Secker, 456 pp., £8.95, November 1982, 0 436 13301 6
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The Life and Crimes of Agatha Christie 
by Charles​ Osborne.
Collins, 256 pp., £9.95, September 1982, 0 00 216462 0
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... regulation side-whiskers, or ‘some amount of self-importance and a certain air of command’, or the manner in which the Marine held his head and swung his cane. As the Holmes saga developed, Conan Doyle came to see that it would be to the advantage of the stories that his readers should be afforded a clear glimpse of the clues as they turn up. But he sets no great emphasis on his. In the main, we ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Voices from Beyond the Grave

20 November 2008
... by the sounds of their own inventions.* There are two compilations, one British, one American, and the British one gets off to a startling beginning by bodying forth the ghostly voice of Arthur Conan Doyle, whom one expects to sound like Basil Rathbone. In actual fact he sounds like Gordon Brown. It’s somehow easy to forget that Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh, and his voice, recorded in 1930, is ...

Let us breakfast in splendour

Charles​ Nicholl: Francis Barber

15 July 2015
The Fortunes of Francis Barber: The True Story of the Jamaican Slave Who Became Samuel Johnson’s Heir 
by Michael Bundock.
Yale, 282 pp., £20, May 2015, 978 0 300 20710 1
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... around a table convivially cluttered with decanters and after-dinner debris. From left to right they are James Boswell, Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, David Garrick, Edmund Burke, Pasquale Paoli, Charles Burney, Thomas Warton and Oliver Goldsmith. Their names appear below the image, cursively engraved, appositely placed: one might almost be looking at a signed group photograph of 18th-century ...

Sticky Wicket

Charles​ Nicholl: Colonel Fawcett’s Signet Ring

28 May 2009
The Lost City of Z 
by David Grann.
Simon and Schuster, 339 pp., £16.99, February 2009, 978 1 84737 436 3
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... living half-wild in the woods. Fellow explorers described him as having an ‘indomitable will’ and ‘infinite resource’, a man ‘in hand to hand combat with the wilderness’. In Conan Doyle’s South American fantasia, The Lost World (1912), the explorer John Roxton is recognisably based on Fawcett, whose lectures in London Doyle had attended. He had ‘something of Don Quixote ...

Bloodbaths

John Sutherland

21 April 1988
Misery 
by Stephen King.
Hodder, 320 pp., £11.95, September 1987, 0 340 39070 0
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The Tommyknockers 
by Stephen King.
Hodder, 563 pp., £12.95, February 1988, 0 340 39069 7
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Touch 
by Elmore Leonard.
Viking, 245 pp., £10.95, February 1988, 9780670816545
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Sideswipe 
by Charles​ Willeford.
Gollancz, 293 pp., £10.95, March 1988, 0 575 04197 8
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Ratking 
by Michael Dibdin.
Faber, 282 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 0 571 15147 7
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... things – like not buying your books – if you act out of character. There are many real-life confirmations of King’s thesis that in popular fiction you create a success at your peril. Conan Doyle thought himself free of Sherlock Holmes (‘he keeps me from better things’) when he killed the sleuth at the Reichenbach Falls on 4 May 1891. But reader demand obliged him to resurrect Holmes in ...

Buried Alive!

Nick Richardson: Houdini

14 April 2011
Houdini: Art and Magic 
by Brooke Kamin Rapaport.
Yale, 261 pp., £25, November 2010, 978 0 300 14684 4
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... he advised them on how to improve their locks. On one occasion, he had himself locked up in the forbidding United States Jail in Washington DC, in the cell that had held James Garfield’s assassin, Charles Guiteau. He not only escaped from it, but also, on the way out, opened the cells of two other inmates and made them switch places. Legend has it that he asked the occupant of one of the cells what he ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Murder on the Orient Express’

30 November 2017
Murder on the Orient Express 
directed by Kenneth Brannagh.
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... for a job that sounds as if it might involve a death on the Nile. Hercule Poirot has been escaping from print into plays and films almost since he was born in The Mysterious Affair at Styles in 1920. Charles Laughton, Orson Welles, José Ferrer, Tony Randall and many others have brought him to some sort of audio or audio-visual life, but the relatively recent personifications by Albert Finney, Peter ...

How did she get those feet?

Alice Spawls: The Female Detective

20 February 2014
The Notting Hill Mystery: The First Detective Novel 
by Charles​ Warren Adams.
British Library, 312 pp., £8.99, February 2012, 978 0 7123 5859 0
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The Female Detective: The Original Lady Detective 
by Andrew Forrester.
British Library, 328 pp., £8.99, October 2012, 978 0 7123 5878 1
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Revelations of a Lady Detective 
by William Stephens Hayward.
British Library, 278 pp., £8.99, February 2013, 978 0 7123 5896 5
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... Little​ more than forty years separate Poe’s Dupin, the original fictional detective, and A Study in Scarlet, Sherlock Holmes’s first outing, but by the time Conan Doyle put pen to paper everyone was reading detective stories. In the intervening years they multiplied out of sensation and mystery novels, gothic melodramas, feuilletons, casebooks and crime reports and ...
25 April 1991
... both ways it the hallmark of both Greene’s and Le Carré’s success. Neither Conrad in The Secret Agent nor Dostoevsky in Crime and Punishment employed a deliberately truth-telling formula. Conan Doyle knew that his puzzles were absurd, but his tales grew their own involuntary authenticity, which includes Holmes and Watson sitting down at the breakfast table together, or Holmes’s casual remark in ...
17 June 1982
Re-Reading English 
edited by Peter Widdowson.
Methuen, 246 pp., £7.95, March 1982, 0 416 31150 4
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Against Criticism 
by Iain McGilchrist.
Faber, 271 pp., £12.50, May 1982, 0 571 11922 0
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... a branch of Militant Tendency. Before considering the terminal ironies of this rejection of printed texts, it is essential to examine the history of English as an academic subject. As Brian Doyle shows in the only valuable essay in this collection, the earliest instruction in English language and literature was provided at University College, London, from the 1820s. As a subject it resembled ...

Descent into Oddness

Dinah Birch: Peter Rushforth’s long-awaited second novel

6 January 2005
Pinkerton’s Sister 
by Peter Rushforth.
Scribner, 729 pp., £18.99, September 2004, 0 7432 5235 7
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... that bind her thinking into coherence, if not into sense. There isn’t much she hasn’t read, or doesn’t remember. Oscar Wilde, the Brontës, Robert Louis Stevenson, Tennyson, George MacDonald, Charles Reade, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Louisa May Alcott, Wilkie Collins, Mary Braddon, Conan Doyle, Du Maurier, and plenty more. Her literary memory is a compendium of every syllabus in Victorian ...

Mae West and the British Raj

Wendy Doniger: Dinosaur Icons

18 February 1999
The Last Dinosaur Book: The Life and Times of a Cultural Icon 
by W.J.T. Mitchell.
Chicago, 321 pp., £25, November 1998, 0 226 53204 6
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... and palaeontology (primarily Darwin and Cuvier), 19th and 20th-century history of science, political history, fiction (the ‘lost worlds’ of Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Bur roughs and Arthur Conan Doyle), film, advertising, depth psychology and art (paintings in art museums and museums of science, cartoons and comics). The scholarship is successfully air-brushed by an elegant Post-Modern ...

Manly Love

John Bayley

28 January 1993
Walt Whitman: From Moon to Starry Night 
by Philip Callow.
Allison and Busby, 394 pp., £19.99, October 1992, 0 85031 908 0
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The Double Life of Stephen Crane 
by Christopher Benfey.
Deutsch, 294 pp., £17.99, February 1993, 0 233 98820 3
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... kind’, in any of Whitman’s male relationships. Kind he was, but it was a loving-kindness that included men and women with equal ease. He was upset when a special comrade of long standing, Peter Doyle, a Washington streetcar conductor, drifted apart from him in the Seventies, when he was growing an old man; but Doyle was nearly thirty years younger and had his own life to live, as Whitman was the ...

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