Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fine Fifteen Authors - Arthur Conan Doyle

My grandfather lived with us when I was growing up. He died when I was eight years old and one of his things that I inherited was a book - a mammoth red hardcover tome called THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE.

I have no idea whether the book actually contained everything ever written by Doyle. Probably not, although it certainly seemed big enough. I still have the book, and if I ever get motivated enough to check, I'll get back to you and let you know.

One thing the book did contain, though, was a bunch of short stories and longer works about a deductive genius in turn-of-the-century Great Britain who used his powerful reasoning skills to solve seemingly impossible mysteries.

Sherlock Holmes was the crimefighter's name, as you undoubtedly already knew, and those adventures were just as instrumental in developing my literary tastes as the Hardy Boys. Even though the Holmes stories could not in any way be considered "Young Adult" reading, I dived into them with a vengeance.

I must have read and re-read Holmes's adventures a dozen times each, likely spending more time immersed in that gigantic red book over the course of a few years than my grandfather spent in a lifetime. It was also my introduction to noir, to a world where the protagonist of the story, the "good guy," wasn't necessarily always squeaky-clean.

I'm not sure anyone else would agree with me that these turn-of-the-century stories qualify as noir, but how else would you describe adventures where the protagonist spends his time, when not immersed in a mystery, under the recreational effects of morphine or cocaine? In my sheltered young world, Holmes's extracurricular activities were as shocking as they were fascinating.

I haven't read any of those stories in years, decades actually, and I suspect that some of Holmes's deductions that so amazed me when I was ten years old may not seem so brilliant now. Some of them may not make all that much sense whatsoever.

But my fascination with Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous creation introduced me to a world of crime and mystery I still love to read - and write - about today. And that's good enough for me.


Dani said...


I have also inherited some books from my grandparents, and they are amongst my favorites. There is nothing like the feel (and smell!) of an old hardcover book.

I find that what we enjoy reading is usually what we want to write as well. I have a great fantasy/sci-fi novel in my head. (Well, in my head of course it's great!) But my strength when it comes to writing doesn't seem to be the same types of novels I enjoy reading.

I plan on taking the month of November (National Novel Writing Month) to really explore a different style of writing.

I can't wait to see the rest of the authors! I may copy your idea for my own blog in November.

Al Leverone said...

Hi Dani,

I wrote the guts of the first draft of my first novel during National Novel Writing Month in 2006, and I still have hopes of selling the manuscript eventually. Of course it doesn't bear much of a resemblance now to what I scribbled down that November, but the cliche goes, "You can't revise a blank page," so you have to start somewhere!

I would love to see what authors your list would include, so have at it! I stole the idea from someone else, anyway...