Saturday, December 29, 2007

"The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes"

Andrew Lycett studied history at Oxford University. After an early career as a foreign correspondent specializing in Africa and the Middle East, he now writes biographies. His lives of Dylan Thomas, Rudyard Kipling and Ian Fleming have been highly praised.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new book, The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes: The Life and Times of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and reported the following:
Page 69 of my biography The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes: The Life and Times of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle proves significant.

It starts with Conan Doyle as a medical student experimenting with gelseminum, a poisonous and potentially fatal plant drug. His experiences during this phase of his life were important in the creation of his character Sherlock Holmes, who drew many techniques of observation and analysis from his university mentor Dr Joseph Bell.

Although never a cocaine addict like Holmes, Conan Doyle, as this scene shows, was himself an indefatigable investigator, as he looked into drugs and their properties, and was willing, like Holmes, to test them on himself.

At the time he was working as a locum for another doctor whose wife became so alarmed at this self-abuse that she threatened to tell Conan Doyle's mother -- a dominant presence in his life since his father was incapacitated as an alcoholic and epileptic.

Page 69 also tells of some of Conan Doyle's friends and acquaintances at Edinburgh University, from the mysterious Bryan Waller, who enjoyed a close friendship with his mother, to George Budd, a maverick medic with whom Conan Doyle went into partnership in Plymouth after graduating. Their relationship quickly broke down and Conan Doyle moved to Portsmouth, where he set up his own doctor's practice and began to write stories.

Conan Doyle's student days in Edinburgh were very important in the development of a callow youth just out a Jesuit school into a mature and sceptical man.
Read an excerpt from The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes and learn more about the book at the Simon & Schuster website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue