Sunday, July 5, 2020

The Real Sherlock, by Lucinda Hawksley (author, narrator)

Audible Studios, May 2019

This is a short, lively account of the life of Arthur Conan Doyle. It's fun and, to a point, informative. However, when I realized two of the people contributing to it were Catherine Ruml Doyle and Richard John Francis Doyle, great-niece and great-nephew of Arthur Conan Doyle, two of the family members who control the estate, I knew it would include nothing critical or suggesting any faults or weaknesses at all.

Which put me in a snarkier mood while listening than I would have been otherwise.

But of course Conan Doyle gave us Sherlock Holmes, and all the entertainment that has come from that. We get an introduction to what went into creating the characters of Holmes and Watson, what led him to writing fiction at all, and bits of the novels that Conan Doyle thought were much better, and which were initially more profitable for him.
One of the things that pushed him toward writing fiction was the fact that he wasn't making much money as a doctor. This isn't the first time I've come across this fact. What I've never seen explained, or speculated about, is why an Edinburgh-trained doctor who was clearly an intelligent man, couldn't make money as a doctor. But there it is. He didn't, and as a result, we have Sherlock Holmes.

Conan Doyle was also, of course, a leading spirtualist of his day, firmly convinced that it was possible to communicate with our beloved dead. Hawksley and those whom she interviews for this talk about the strength of his belief in spiritualism, and praise him for it. Never mentioned is the fact that some of the people he put his trust in were eventually proven to be frauds. Whereas his strong friendship with Harry Houdini, who, like James Randi many years later, became a great debunker of claims of paranormal abilities, was destroyed by Conan Doyle's commitment to spiritualism and belief that Houdini himself had great paranormal powers and had become his enemy.

Despite its obvious faults and weaknesses, this is an entertaining, short listen.

I received this audiobook as part of the Audible Originals program, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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