“For strange effects and extraordinary combinations we must go to life itself, which is always far more daring than any effort of the imagination.”
– Arthur Conan Doyle
When the words ‘detective novels’ are mentioned, most of us think of Sherlock Holmes. And why not? His famous wit, iconic image of wearing a deerstalker hat and calabash pipe, and aptitude at solving cases has put detective Sherlock Holmes on the map as one of the great fictional characters and a celebrity in the world of crime fiction. The collective novels of Mr. Holmes are known throughout the world and it’s thanks to the vast literary collection—10 books, 22 novels, and 204 stories to name a few—of one man: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle had a modest upbringing and was able to receive an established education through his well-off relatives who took care of him after his father’s untimely passing. As a physician and writer growing up in Picardy Place, Sir Conan Doyle had a relentless flare for prose and the written expression. He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, under the wing of an Irish Catholic mother and an English father with an Irish Catholic descent. Although his upbringing was rooted in Catholicism, his beliefs are often viewed as agnostic, and he shared no particular religious affiliation. At age seventeen, our future crime novelist attended University of Edinburgh Medical School, while studying botany at the Royal Botanic Garden.
During his medical studies, an interest in writing led him to complete his first collection of short stories, which were released through such publications as Blackwood’s Magazine and Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal. Although various academic articles were also written, it quickly became evident that he had a zeal for one subject matter, and that was the genre of literature and fiction. With “The Mystery of the Sasassa Valley”, the strategic elements of mystery fiction were beginning to formulate and his passions that would later ensue in crime fiction and detective novels were slowly falling in place. His keen interests in fiction revolved around crime and murder mystery quickly gained notoriety and it was in the year 1886 that the public release of A Study in Scarlet paved the way for his early detective books, which introduced the names Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson that has till this day withstood the test of time. Although his early works introducing Holmes and Watson received rejections from various publications (e.g. A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of The Four), the national press quickly turned his work into a popular detective read at the turn of the century.
Today Sherlock Holmes is one of the most frequently used subject figures in books, film, and media. The PBS British series Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes, has been a televised hit and has gained public praise, receiving a 9.3 out of 10 stars on IMDB. The film Mr. Holmes with Ian McKellen is another Sherlockian rendition based on Mitch Cullin’s 2005 novel, “A Slight Trick of the Mind”, which is sold worldwide, along with the film favoring among film festivals in 2015. And let’s not forget Guy Ritchie’s directed 2009 film Sherlock Holmes and the 2011 sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows about the detective duo, brilliantly portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. (Holmes) and Jude Law (Dr. Watson).
March marks the month when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ventured into imaginative mystery and first created the character that has become a milestone for the ages. Out of the approximate two hundred historical texts, novels, pamphlets, poems, and short stories written, the sixty stories revolved around Sherlock Holmes have become the most revered and popularized works read and adapted by any author, and over the course of 130 years after the birth of our beloved mystery-solver, he still reigns supreme as the greatest detective ever known. To learn more about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, his biography is available online at: arthurconandoyle.com. You can also visit the official website, sherlockholmes.com, where the history of detective Holmes is shared, along with memorabilia with his iconic image, adorned in his signature hat and pipe, that are available for sale.
Andrew Avak is writer, editor, and proofreader, working out of Los Angeles, California. During his adolescence, he enjoyed reading the twentieth century classics written by Hemingway, Saroyan, Steinbeck, but as he grew into adulthood, he began reading English literature from Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton, all the way to Orwell, Maugham, and Joyce. In September of 2015, he published his debut novella Eyedentify and is currently working on a variation of short stories. He currently lives in Glendale, with his wife Alina.