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An Entirely New Country - Arthur Conan Doyle, Undershaw and the Resurrection of Sherlock Holmes Paperback – December 5, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: MX Publishing (December 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1908218193
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908218193
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,847,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Many Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts try their hand at writing pastiche (Holmes-related fiction). Alistair Duncan has taken the "road less travelled" and dedicated himself to writing biographies which connect Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to his personal geography--be it London, Norwood, or now, Undershaw.

Doyle built Undershaw (located near Hindhead, Surrey) in hopes of providing his beloved wife Louise a home in a climate which would provide her some relief from advanced tuberculosis. The family had spent the past couple of years in Egypt and Switzerland, looking for dry air and high altitudes. Family friend Grant Allen's recommendation that they try Surrey gave them the chance to return to England and raise their two children, Mary and Kingsley, with minimal disruptions.

Doyle's 10 years at Undershaw (which did, ultimately, extend Louise's life) were eventful ones. Duncan follows the author's life chronologically, giving the reader glimpses of both the mundane (depending on how you view cricket and golf) and the momentous (Hound of the Baskervilles, anyone?), with plenty of wry observations on both. While many biographers succumb to the charm of their subject, Duncan keeps a clear and objective eye, giving us a real Doyle, warts and all--particularly important as this book covers what became his complex romantic life. Here, Duncan is honest and perceptive in describing Doyle's actions and their impact upon his family.

Readers also get to see the political Doyle, and the military one, as this era includes his service in the 2nd Boer War. We see fact meet fiction as Doyle investigates the strange case (and it is pretty outré) of George Edalji.
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Format: Paperback
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle often seems to be as much of an enduring icon as the character he created--timeless, mythic, even larger-than-life. In "An Entirely New Country," Alistair Duncan strips all of that away, and reveals someone who was very real, and lived in a very human way. He had very real failings, and very human desires and insecurities. And if Doyle's reasons for resurrecting Sherlock Holmes were purely fiscal, rather than fanciful, then Duncan helps his reader to accept those reasons. Because it doesn't matter why Doyle chose to resurrect Sherlock Holmes, it only matters that he did. By focusing solely on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's years at Undershaw, Alistair Duncan provides the necessary framework and context to some of Doyle's most significant moments and decisions. The specificity of his project was ambitious, but Duncan fulfilled those demands and expectations in spades.
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Format: Paperback
Make no mistake: I am a student of the life of Sherlock Holmes, and not Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I play “The Game” with great seriousness. My two trips to England, and in particular London, have been Holmes Pilgrimages. Any time that I happened to cross the path of Conan Doyle, Watson’s first – but not only – literary agent, was usually by accident. (Stopping to look at two of Doyle’s London homes, for instance, happened only because they were on the walk between other Holmes-related sites, and not because they were destinations in-and-of themselves.)

In spite of this statement, I believe that I have most, if not all, of the previous Doyle biographies in my collection – those by Carr, Pearson, Stashower, Costello, Lellenburg and Stashower, Jaffee, Symons, Higham, and even Doyle’s own autobiography, “Memories and Adventures”. They are all go-to’s when I’m researching some fact or other in relation to the lives of Holmes and Watson.

In 2015, I came up with the idea of, and then edited and contributed to, the ongoing Holmes anthology series, “The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories”. These author royalties for these volumes go to benefit the Stepping Stones School for special needs students, located at Undershaw, one of Doyle’s homes. It was through this effort that I became much more aware of both Doyle and Undershaw. While learning about this special place, I actually began to wish that I had visited this Doyle residence because of Doyle, and not just because of connections to Holmes and Watson.

At about this time, I happened to acquire the three excellent biographies of Doyle – “The Norwood Author”, “An Entirely New Country”, and “No Better Place” – all written by Alistair Duncan, in which new insights are provided into three crucial eras of the man’s life.
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Format: Paperback
An Entirely New Country
Type of material: Trade Paperback
Publisher: MX Publishing, London
Year: 2012
Author: Alistair Duncan

This book covers the 10 years (1897-1907) that Arthur Conan Doyle lived at Undershaw, the stately home he built at Hindhead in Surrey, and where he lived with his first wife Louis "Touie" Hawkins Doyle and their two children, Mary and Kingsley. This is Duncan's sequel to The Norwood Author, a 2011 Howlett Literary Award winning book that covers Doyle's life from 1891-94.

The important years covered by this book include the launching of actor William Gillette as the world's embodiment of Holmes due to his smash hit play "Sherlock Holmes." The play was written by Gillette, but began as a play written by Doyle himself.

These years also saw the writing of arguably the greatest Gothic mystery of all time - The Hound of the Baskervilles - and ultimately the resurrection of The Great Detective himself with the publishing of what would eventually become the collection of short stories known as "The Return of Sherlock Holmes." One gathers that, despite Doyle's proclaimed dislike of his famous hero, even he was not content to let sleeping detectives lie.

These pivotal subjects are handled fairly well, as is Doyle's extensive involvement in the Boer War. Other important topics, however, I felt were rather glossed over. For example, it was during this time Doyle campaigned to clear parcee solicitor George Edalji of a charge of maliciously wounding a pony; but the broader issues of racism that surrounded this volatile subject were rather downplayed, leaving Doyle's zeal somewhat without a platform.
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