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The Doctor and the Detective: A Biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle by [Booth, Martin]
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The Doctor and the Detective: A Biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Length: 384 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote in his autobiography: "I have had a life which, for variety and romance, could, I think, hardly be exceeded." In the years since his death, Doyle has been almost uniquely identified with his most famous character, Sherlock Holmes, who remains among the world's most identifiable figures, fictional or real. Doyle was much more than the author of the Holmes stories, but his very success with the series has clouded nearly every attempt to address his life. Martin Booth's The Doctor and the Detective redresses the balance. It's the first full-fledged biography of Doyle, the first one not distorted by the lens of his Holmes stories. Through Doyle, it offers an entertaining vision of the Victorian values that underlie the stories, and it also illuminates the "variety and romance" of the author's life: as a military doctor, a war correspondent, a spiritualist, a cricket player, and a worker for social justice.

Booth begins with Doyle's grandfather, political cartoonist John Doyle, whom he sees as the pivotal fount of the family's artistic genius. He quickly moves through a description of Doyle's Jesuit schooling and his early talent for spinning stories. Later chapters examine his discovery of the short story through reading Edgar Allan Poe, his struggles and successes as his family's first medical doctor, and his eventual recognition of the need for a new kind of fiction with "a scientific detective, who solved cases on his own merits and not through the folly of the criminal." But, as Booth shows, the publication of A Study in Scarlet in November 1887 was not the defining event of Doyle's life. As the novella emerged and developed a small following, he entered politics and championed the Irish Liberal Unionist cause. That same year he began experimenting with telepathy and published his first letter in the journal of the London Spiritualistic Alliance. This latter interest would do as much as--if not more than--Holmes did to shape the rest of Doyle's rich life.

Doyle's papers, briefly available to scholars, were subsequently withdrawn. Studies based on those papers have been tightly controlled by the Doyle estate, so much of the most private material has never seen print. Despite that obstacle, Booth has done an excellent job of sifting through all of the public information about the author, his family, and his associates to assemble a highly readable, often entertaining narrative. What emerges is a portrait of a powerful man who helped define the character of popular literature in the 20th century. Booth's book will likely remain the definitive biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle until the author's papers are released in their entirety. --Patrick O'Kelley

From Publishers Weekly

Although the burly Edinburgh doctor who believed in fairies will always be linked with an angular, coolly rational English consulting detective, Booth (a Booker Prize nominee for Industry of Souls) is only one of many Sherlock Holmes fans and Arthur Conan Doyle biographers to try to separate the two. Booth's polished life appears in the U.S. after Daniel Stashower's lengthy, more authoritative work from earlier this year (Teller of Tales, Forecasts, March 15). While Booth lacks Stashower's thoroughness, he makes up for it in style and astute judgments on Conan Doyle's life and achievements. Conan Doyle grew quickly frustrated with the way his most famous creation eclipsed all else but could not do without him. Booth, a professed admirer of Holmes but not a Baker Street Irregular, investigates Conan Doyle and his creation with shrewd detachment, including the possible link between Holmes's cocaine habit and Conan Doyle's old medical partner. Conan Doyle's achievements minus the Great Detective would have been respectable: writing everything from serious historical novels to proto-science fiction, running for Parliament, serving in the Boer War, lobbying for such social reforms as divorce laws, investigating wrongful convictions, observing the front lines in the Great War, etc. While Booth often skims over interesting episodes as well as boring ones, his intriguing interpretation of Conan Doyle's gullible promulgation of "psychic religion," i.e. spiritualism, presents us not only with an industrious Victorian's attempt to situate his need to believe in the modern world but also with Conan Doyle's rationalization of his family's twin heritage of mental instability and creativity. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1156 KB
  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books (May 10, 2013)
  • Publication Date: May 10, 2013
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00CK51IL8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #373,707 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I must confess that I am not much of a biography reader, but the subject of Arthur Conan Doyle was too interesting to pass up. The Doctor and the Detective is highly readable, written in a comfortable style that is not just a recitation of facts and dates. Conan Doyle himself was a fascinating man of myriad interests and talents. I found myself breaking from my reading to share my amazement with anyone who would listen. Although I have read the complete Sherlock Holmes, this biography has inspired me to seek out The Lost World and other science fiction and horror stories written by Conan Doyle. My one minor criticism of the book is that the chronological sequence was sometimes difficult to follow because the chapters are arranged thematically rather than in strict time order. For example, information about Conan Doyle's medical career would be in one chapter and the development of Sherlock Holmes in another, but both chapters cover overlapping years and characters. Overall, I feel that I have gained an excellent sense of Arthur Conan Doyle as an individual and within the context of his world. I highly recommend this biography.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a solid and very readable biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. All of the elements are here: growing up poor in Edinburgh, with a disillusioned, distant and alcoholic father and a strong and loving mother; going to medical school and getting started in a medical practice; his growing success as a writer of short fiction and historical novels; his first marriage, to a woman who developed tuberculosis early on and who died in middle age; Conan Doyle's falling in love, while still married to his first wife, with Jean Leckie, the woman who became his second wife (the relationship wasn't sexual until Conan Doyle's first wife died and he had married Jean); his fascination with, and public enthusiasm for, spiritualism. Some of the information presented is well-known, such as the interest in spiritualism and Conan Doyle's growing tired very early on with writing the Sherlock Holmes stories. But I'm guessing that, unless you are a rabid Sherlockian who has read tons of material on the creation and his creator, you will find much of the information the author presents to be interesting and fresh. Mr. Booth shows the adventurous side of Conan Doyle- his early hitch on a whaling ship and another trip, as a medical officer, on board a merchant ship which travelled down the western coast of Africa. We learn about the difficulties involved for a young doctor in setting up a medical practice. You had to spend money to make money, as the practice had to look like it was flourishing even though it was just getting started. With his limited funds, Conan Doyle did a nice job of furnishing his consulation room. He had to hang up a curtain, however, so patients couldn't see into the rest of the house- which was pretty much devoid of any furniture or decoration.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
This biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle tells that he was far more than the creator of "Sherlock Holmes". He was trained as an MD, and started writing to supplement his income. His literary skills brought him great wealth and fame. He had enormous self-confidence, the courage of his convictions, and was never afraid of controversy. He vigorously campaigned on behalf of prisoners wrongly convicted. This book is well worth reading about this paradoxical and versatile man.
His experiences in the Boer War showed him the British Army was antiquated and in need of immediate and drastic reform. The cavalry was outdated; artillery should be diversified and camouflaged; rifle drill was more important than parade drill. Officers should not wear distinctive uniforms, and should end their luxorious habits that made it hard for a poor man to accept a commission (p.237). He advocated a civilian military reserve of well-trained citizens, and nationwide rifle clubs. By 1906 there was a national federation of rifle clubs. The British won the Boer War thru a scorched earth policy, and placing Boer women and children in concentration camps. ACD defended the British in a pamphlet that was widely distributed. He was later made a knight bachelor and Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Surrey (p.241).
ACD introduced Norwegian skiing to Switzerland in 1894 (p.172), memorialized in a plaque in Davos. When he visited America he just missed meeting Oliver Wendell Holmes, who he admired (p.200). He introduced golf to New England (p.201).
In 1886 he got the idea of writing about a detective who would solve cases by his scientific methods, and not by the folly of the criminal.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A very thorough look at the life of someone most know as the man who created Sherlock Holmes, but he did so much more. His early life was very difficult, he was obsessed with spiritualism and faeries, and he wrote extensively on world conflicts. It seems that he spent a lot of his life fleeing from the detective that brought him fame (and money) but the latter meant he continued to write the detective stories until very late in his life. The four stars, instead of five, is for the somewhat rambling toward the end as the author goes over Conan Doyle's spiritualism.
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