cover image Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes

Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes

Michael Sims. Bloomsbury, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-1-63286-039-2

Sims (The Story of Charlotte’s Web) presents a concise and well-written account of the factors—both internal and external—that led to Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1887 publication of “A Study in Scarlet,” the first Sherlock Holmes story. Readers unfamiliar with the circumstances of Conan Doyle’s early years and the influence of one of his medical school professors will be fascinated to learn how much Holmes was based on a real person. Sims lays out the ways in which Edinburgh’s Dr. Joseph Bell used observation and deduction to diagnose patients after only a brief glance, in passages that read as if Dr. Watson was penning them. Sims, who is an expert on Victorian fiction, also presents historical antecedents for fictional detectives, as well as a cogent analysis of the ways in which Conan Doyle was, and was not, influenced by prior writers such as Edgar Allan Poe. He details how Conan Doyle struggled to get published before he hit gold with the creation of Holmes and Watson, who were at one point called Sherrington Hope and Ormond Sacker. Sims’s skill and deftness with narrative biography will lead Sherlockians to hope that he continues the story of Conan Doyle’s life in a future volume.[em] (Jan.) [/em]