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.
On Conan Doyle is a much-needed celebration of Arthur Conan Doyle’s genius for every kind of storytelling.
Michael Dirda is a Pulitzer Prize–winning critic and longtime book columnist for the Washington Post. He is the author of four collections of essays, Readings, Bound to Please, Book by Book, and Classics for Pleasure, as well as the memoir An Open Book. A lifelong Sherlock Holmes and Conan Doyle fan, he was inducted into The Baker Street Irregulars in 2002.
"[A] brief, elegant reflection. . . . With thoughtful care, Dirda explains how Conan Doyle 'rose above the conventions of his time' in many of his writings. Dirda shines a helpful light on the adventurers Professor Challenger and Brigadier Gerard, while a selection of 'weird' fiction causes him to declare that those stories 'can stand up to the best work of such masters of the uncanny as Sheridan Le Fanu and M.R. James.' Dirda circles back to Holmes, directing our attention to overlooked aspects of the stories--the elusive presence of Professor Moriarty, for example, or Holmes' brother Mycroft. He also treats us to a delightful, intimate glimpse of the magical power of books in his own early life. What book lover hasn't had at least one cherished experience of reading? Dirda's own involves his loving preparations, as a youth, to read The Hound of the Baskervilles on an appropriately stormy day when the rest of his family was out of the house. . . . And there's much of that same feeling in Dirda's inviting book, which demonstrates why for so many years Dirda has been such an insightful guide to literatures past and present. (Note to director Guy Ritchie: If you're still looking for more Conan Doyle fare after 'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows' opens next month, you might read Dirda's book for ideas.)"--Nick Owchar, Los Angeles Times
"Charming. . . . As any Conan Doyle aficionado knows, the adventures of Holmes comprise a mere fraction of the oeuvre . . . and one of Dirda's chief concerns is to give the rest of it appropriate attention. . . . Dirda is also enlightening on the author's influences and literary heirs."--Toby Lichtig, Times Literary Supplement
Table of Contents:
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