Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Not a Sister, but a Mister in Crime

By Leslie Shortlidge

Though most emphatically not a women and a Johnny-come-lately to detective fiction compared to writers such as Edgar Allan Poe, Wilkie Collins, and Anna Katharine Green, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) will be forever loved as the creator of master-sleuth Sherlock Holmes.

Why talk about Doyle here in the SinC blog? Because Doyle was a believer in fiction that did not cheat the reader, fiction that rather rewarded him or her with a satisfying conclusion based on observable facts and the latest scientific methods.

In precious movie footage from a 1927 newsreel, Doyle himself addresses the camera and his legion of fans to explain how and why he came to create Holmes (or does so until about half-way through when he shifts his discussion to Spiritualism). Mostly, Doyle wrote detective fiction because he didn’t like the detective fiction he was reading. He disliked the style of the time, which depended on a “lucky chance or a fluke of some kind” that lacked plausible explanations.

“It didn’t seem to me quite playing the game,” says Doyle in his Scotts burr. And when Doyle began to write, he decided that his character would “get the thing by building it up scientifically.”

For his creation, Sherlock Holmes, Doyle “thought of a hundred little dodges . . . a hundred little touches by which he could build up his conclusions.” Inspired by a colleague, Dr. Joseph Bell, who employed the same holistic consideration of a person made famous by Holmes, Doyle succeeded in setting the bar to a much higher standard than heretofore realized—and the style still inspires.

Leslie Shortlidge is a member of the Sisters In Crime Guppie chapter and lives in Columbus, Ohio. You can follow her on Twitter, where her handle is @Bookorama. Most of her posts are exciting updates on her word count, using the #amwriting hash tag.


Joyce said...

Very cool!

Norma Huss said...

I never dreamed there was a video (from an old recording of some kind, I know) of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle! I wonder, if he'd written fiction about his paranormal beliefs, which genre would he now be the most famous for? However, the world of mystery is certainly better for Sherlock Holmes!

Gillian Doyle said...

Thanks for the video! It was fascinating to see him talk about his experience with the psychic/spiritualism world. He was brave to stand up for his beliefs despite the public ridicule.

Norma, Doyle preferred to write historical romance over mysteries, by far. "Romance" having a different definition than what we know today. WHITE COMPANY is the most well-known, but he was terribly disappointed that his efforts were mostly ignored.

BTW, I'm not related. Gillian Doyle is my pseudonym. ;-)