The Narrative of John Smith

Arthur Conan Doyle. Edited and with an introduction by Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower, and Rachel Foss. British Library, $15%C2%A0(138p) ISBN 978-0-7123-5841-5
Doyle's first novel, written when he was 23 years old, was lost in the mail, but the author later recreated most of it. The unfinished second version has never been published before, and while it won't be confused with any of Doyle's acclaimed Holmes or Professor Challenger stories, it's still an interesting read that offers insights into the author's worldview. Narrator Smith is incapacitated and confined to his room on doctor's orders, which gives him plenty of time to ruminate on religion, race relations, biology, and literature. The invalid approves of the enlightened attitude toward others shown by a fellow lodger, an unnamed army major, who anticipates the Doyle who was later to champion George Edalji and campaign against the Belgian slave trade. The major calls for "[m]ore black faces in the streets of London, and more white ones in the country parts of India. We should find billets in England for a thousand bright Hindoo youths every year, and send out as many of our own young fellows to work at the tea and indigo." Casual readers will view this more as a curiosity than a must-read, but Sherlockians will enjoy noting phrases and sentiments that recur in Dr. Watson's tales. (Oct. 2011)
Reviewed on: 07/16/2012
Release date: 10/01/2011
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