Friday, December 7, 2012

The Mystery Genre, Then and Now

A Study in Scarlet
Arthur Conan Doyle

This week the focus is on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the cerebral detective, Sherlock Holmes. Readers first discovered this fascinating character on the printed page in A Study in Scarlet in 1886, published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual. The love affair between readers and Holmes has continued for more than a century in books, movies, and television.

Holmes, calling himself a “consulting detective” is the second such character to appear in the mystery novel genre. With his erstwhile partner, Dr. Watson and his super powers of observation, Holmes has sleuthed his way through 4 novels and 56 short stories.

In 1890, Sir Arthur decided to “slay” Holmes in the short story, The Final Problem in order to devote more time to writing his historical novels. The public outcry was so great he resurrected Holmes in his next to the last novel The Hounds of the Baskervilles.

An interesting fact emerged while researching this prolific author. Sir Arthur was a practicing physician. It was the unsuccessful start-up of a new practice that drove him to writing to supplement his income. Imagine if patients had flocked to his door, we might never have become acquainted with Sherlock Holmes. Today, numerous physicians have taken to writing mystery novels, including CBA’s own Dr. Harry Kraus and Dr. Richard Mabry. However, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was the first to put pen to paper and lead us a merry chase through a crime scene.

Although Sir Arthur wrote science fiction, historical, and non-fiction he is world renown for writing detective novels. But he felt that it was a political pamphlet The War in South Africa: Its Cause and Conduct, which resulted in his being knighted in 1902.

(May 1859 to July 1930)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes novels are still in print today. A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of the Four, The Hounds of the Baskervilles, and The Valley of Fear. The 56 short stories are also avail in anthology collections on most bookstore websites.

Next week the mystery genre moves into the twentieth century.

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