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A passionate lifelong fan of the Sherlock Holmes adventures, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Michael Dirda is a member of The Baker Street Irregulars--the most famous and romantic of all Sherlockian groups. Combining memoir and appreciation, On Conan Doyle is a highly engaging personal introduction to Holmes's creator, as well as a rare insider's account of the curiously delightful activities and playful scholarship of The Baker Street Irregulars.
Because Arthur Conan Doyle wrote far more than the mysteries involving Holmes, this book also introduces readers to the author's lesser-known but fascinating writings in an astounding range of other genres. A prolific professional writer, Conan Doyle was among the most important Victorian masters of the supernatural short story, an early practitioner of science fiction, a major exponent of historical fiction, a charming essayist and memoirist, and an outspoken public figure who attacked racial injustice in the Congo, campaigned for more liberal divorce laws, and defended wrongly convicted prisoners. He also wrote novels about both domestic life and contemporary events (including one set in the Middle East during an Islamic uprising), as well as a history of World War I, and, in his final years, controversial tracts in defense of spiritualism.
On Conan Doyle describes all of these achievements and activities, uniquely combining skillful criticism with the story of Dirda's deep and enduring affection for Conan Doyle and his work. This is a book for everyone who already loves Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and the world of 221B Baker Street, or for anyone who would like to know more about them, but it is also a much-needed celebration of Arthur Conan Doyle's genius for every kind of storytelling.
Winner of the 2012 Edgar Award for Best Critical/Biographical Work
"Short meditation on both the merits of Doyle beyond Sherlock Holmes and why fiction, and our responses to it, are and should be deeply strange. I very much liked it."—Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution
"Dirda is less didactic in this volume, but no less willing to offer judgments informed by long affection. His book is quite short, a lovely size for reading in odd moments or, perhaps, by the fire with a glass of something delicious by your side."—Alexandra Mullen, New Criterion
"[This book] deserves a place on the bookshelves of all who recognise Arthur Conan Doyle as one of the great fiction writers of his age. . . . [S]trongly recommended."—Guy Marriott, Sherlock Holmes Journal
Preface "You Know My Methods, Watson" ix
"A Hound It Was" 1
"A Most Dark and Sinister Business" 16
"The Lost World" 32
"Twilight Tales" 50
"Steel True, Blade Straight" 74
"I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere" 98
"It Is the Unofficial Force" 126
"I Play the Game for the Game’s Own Sake" 140
"A Case for Langdale Pike" 149
"A Series of Tales" 169
"Good Night, Mister Sherlock Holmes" 188
Appendix "Education Never Ends, Watson" 203
Biographical Note 210
Posted December 23, 2011
The incomparable Michael Dirda recounts his history with the works of Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes and beyond. If you're looking for a biography of ACD, or a life story, this is not the book to choose. However, if you wish to enjoy the history of how a literate man discovered ACD in his childhood, and continues to enjoy Sherlockiana through membership in the Baker Street Irregulars, this book will satisfy greatly. Includes the memorable line, "Little did I know then that book collection is less about acquiring books than about finding the shelf space to store them." (Nook readers have conquered that problem!) Caution: Reading Michael Dirda will add vastly to the list of other books you want to read in your lifetime.
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