Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 -1930)
'Imagine writing the most famous character in literary history. What a burden it must be. What a sad state of affairs when people don't give your other work the time of day and you are trapped in this character - who increasingly means less to you and more to others. Of course I will read Conan Doyle's other works and rejoice in its variety and the freedom that it gave him.' - was what I should have said when my brother asked me; 'Have you ever read any Conan Doyle that isn't Sherlock Holmes?'
What I actually said was, 'why would I bother reading anything other than his masterpiece, what a fucking waste of time. Come on Chris (brother's name) you are better than this.'
Unbeknowest to me my brother had bought me a bunch of Conan Doyle books for my birthday and was going to give them to me the following week.
This came to light a week or so after my birthday when he apologised for my late gift as he 'had bought some Conan Doyle books but gave them to a charity shop after our conversation.' - I think we can all agree that he is a dick?!
If you happen to be one of my usual (nearly) 10s of readers you will note that I have form in offending people when it comes to literature. But my brother got me back. He didn't mention to anyone what had happened until Christmas day when he relayed the story to the entire family and as everyone shook their heads at me he went out to the car and produced the offending books. He had been to the charity shop and re-bought the exact same books for me - twice! My embarrassment seems to have made the double purchase well worth the money.
Since I read The Speckled Band in year 8 English I have been a fan of Sherlock Holmes. And there in lies the problem - I was a fan of Sherlock Holmes, not Arthur Conan Doyle. I gave no credit to the wonderful mind that created him, instead I fantasised about becoming him. Of course I did, we all do. There is a reason why he is the most loved character in all of literature. Sherlock Holmes is the part of us that sees the world differently and allows us to scoff at the rest and their blinded view. Sherlock Holmes is so important he has become real - a celebrity, and therefore we pour affection onto him instead of where it belongs.
Plagued with guilt from my brother's present, I read The Lost World. And wouldn't you know it.... I really enjoyed it! (He's still a dick)
Hmmmm.... maybe it was Conan Doyle that I liked after all. I re read the collection of Holmes stories and found that I love how Conan Doyle writes. The elegance of his sentences, the depth of the language he uses and plots that he can narrate are nothing short of incredible. I can't begin to imagine what the world would have been like if the idea of Sherlock Holmes had fallen into other hands.... the wrong hands!
If you are interested in fiction then I implore you to read as much Conan Doyle as you can. Let Sherlock become a part of your life and let Conan Doyle become the orator of it.
Arthur Conan Doyle matters to us all - perhaps we don't give him the credit for it.
Oh how I wish he could have ended it all with The Final Problem. Every word contained within the adventures, up until this point, is perfect. Some of the magic fades in the collection The Return of Sherlock Holmes as you can almost feel Conan Doyle's lament in writing it.