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The Real World of Sherlock Holmes: The True Crimes Investigated by Arthur Conan Doyle Paperback – September, 1993

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf Pub (September 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786700203
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786700202
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,698,813 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

Whether you agree or not that Sherlock Holmes was the greatest detective who never lived, there is little evidence here that his maker, Conan Doyle, could have been admitted to the first rank of investigators--unless enthusiasm for the grisly be the prime qualification. In a rehash of cases that interested Conan Doyle enough to publicly comment on, Costello (Jules Verne, 1978, etc.) begins with Conan Doyle's childhood enthusiasm for Madame Tussaud's (``I am delighted with the room of Horrors and with the images of the murderers''); documents his subject's membership in the secretive Crimes Club, a discussion group that concentrated on the infamous, such as Jack the Ripper (Conan Doyle felt more should have been done with the Ripper's handwriting samples); follows Conan Doyle from England to America to South Africa to Australia, and recaps the mysteries he came in contact with in each. Costello recounts Conan Doyle's appearance at the Crippen trial; his Scotland Yard communication over the ``Brides in the Bath'' murders; his incontrovertible proof that George Edalji was innocent (although the Home Office didn't seem to care); his pesky snooping into the Agatha Christie disappearance (Conan Doyle, out of deference to a fellow author, knew more than he told about her motive); and his opinion of Sacco and Vanzetti (``the two Italians were executed not as murderers but as anarchists''). Costello cites a dozen or more cases, some seeming to reflect his own interest more than Conan Doyle's, then ventures into dicey territory: Conan Doyle's spiritualism and his trust in clues/solutions rendered by various prominent mediums. An incorrigible tendency toward abbreviating Conan Doyle's views to promulgate his own diminishes Costello's well-researched quasi-biography, which ultimately makes the crimes more interesting than the crimewriter. (Sixteen-page photo insert--not seen.) -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mark Campbell on August 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
As well as the creator of legendary sleuth Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was also something of an amateur detective himself. This book explores the many cases he involved himself with, although in most of them his part is minimal. However, he did help with some memorable investigations - Jack the Ripper, Dr Crippen and the disappearance of Agatha Christie for starters.
Unlike Holmes, though, most of Doyle's observations proved inconclusive. As well as this, the authorities were sometimes loath to accept his findings, and the author, Peter Costello, implies that several innocents were executed for wont of incriminating evidence. Throughout Doyle's long career, though, his crusading nature and willingness to stand up for the truth are impressive attributes.
This book concerns itself with Doyle as Holmes creator only in passing. Here we see the author as an ever-inquisitive seeker of solutions to real-life crimes, a passion he later directed to the Victorian fad of Spiritualism. Indeed, there are some crimes he claimed to have solved through consultation with then-famous mediums. Costello wisely leaves judgement on this score up to the reader.
As an addendum to Doyle's more familiar literary achievements, this book serves it purpose well and provides many interesting insights into the Victorian and Edwardian crime scene.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Jolley HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a quite interesting book that chronicles the real-life interests of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in an assortment of past and contemporary crimes and, in so doing, provides bits of insight into the molding and evolution of the character of Sherlock Holmes. Doyle did not actually take an active part in all of the cases discussed here; several were historic cases to which he took an interest and, in most cases, puts his thoughts in writing. As one can imagine, he did receive a great many requests for help from readers far and wide; as the creator of Sherlock Holmes, some desperate folks looked upon Doyle himself as a last resort when the authorities proved unable to assist them.

The author makes much of an episode involving the death of a young man in the young Dr. Doyle's care, citing this as a true springboard to the creation of Sherlock Holmes. Doyle had taken in a young man suffering from meningitis, and the lad died during the night. A police detective popped by for a visit concerning the case, and this may have given Doyle a real sense of how easily an innocent man might find himself branded a criminal. In this particular case, Doyle might have given the lad too much of the standard treatment, he had already taken a shine to the lad's sister (whom he married some months later) who stood to inherit a decent amount of money upon her brother's death, and an anonymous letter to the police had alerted them to Doyle's involvement in the first place. Had a fellow doctor not been there to see the patient just hours before his death, an exhumation of the body in and of itself could have destroyed Doyle's young medical career. Exactly one year later, he sat down to begin A Study in Scarlet.
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Format: Hardcover
The Real World of Sherlock Holmes

Peter Costello wrote over eight books and many articles in journals. He has been a consultant to TV programs. The “Dr. Watson” character was modeled on Conan Doyle. Costello argues that “Sherlock Holmes” use of observation and deduction was also based on Conan Doyle. This 235 page book has references for each of its 28 chapters but no ‘Index’. There must be as many book references as pages. The long life of the “Sherlock Holmes” stories is due to their quality. “The Hound of the Baskervilles”was based on an old legend; “The Valley of Fear” was based on the Hard Coal Wars in late 19th century northeast Pennsylvania (from Pinkerton Agency sources). Basing a story on a True Crime should always create a better story since a novelist would not have the knowledge and experience for a good story. This is not a biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or a book about “Sherlock Holmes” (‘Foreword’). Conan Doyle owned a criminological library and often acted as a consulting detective. Past biographers overlooked this part of his life.

Chapter 1 tells of an incident in Dr. Conan Doyle’s life when his resident patient died while under his care. An anonymous letter to the police said his death was suspicious. [The death of any 25-year old man would be investigated today.] Costello compares the similarities between Doyle and Holmes (Chapter 2). Doyle’s short stories were a success because each episode was self-contained (Chapter 3). This success led to rivals. Doyle received letters from people who asked for his help (Chapter 4). Murders are caused by a lust for money or disappointment in love (Chapter 5). Doyle has a suggestion that solved a murder (Chapter 6). Chapter 8 has the various theories about the identity of “Jack the Ripper”.
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By Glo in Philly on March 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author claims to reveal previously unpublished information about Arthur Conan-Doyle, but I'm not sure there's much here that hasn't been said before. I'm a huge Sherlock Holmes fan and find Conan-Doyle's life interesting, but while reading this book I kept finding myself skimming over chapters that had content with a 'familiar ring.' What I do like about the book is the extensive photo collection. I enjoy historical books and biographies that include photographs of the people involved; nothing like being able to put a face with a name to make the story come alive.
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