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Conan Doyle: The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes Hardcover – 30 Aug 2007

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 527 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; 1st edition (30 Aug. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297848526
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297848523
  • Product Dimensions: 16.6 x 5 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 766,263 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


(An) excellent biography.. Comprehensive and authoritative, it is undoubtedly the best account of Doyle to date (John Carey SUNDAY TIMES)

thoroughly satisfying (Frances Wilson NEW STATESMEN)

In Andrew Lycett's hugely enjoyable new biography, the sheer breathtaking dynamism of the man shines through (Philip Hoare SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

Conan Doyle has found a biographer of distinction in Andrew Lycett. (Giles Foden THE GUARDIAN)

Shrewd and thorough.. entertaining (DJ Taylor THE INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY)

(Conan Doyle's) other writing will be read because of Holmes and better understood as a result of Lycett's brilliant analysis (Geoffrey Elborn SUNDAY HERALD)

a serious piece of work by an experienced professional biographer.. particularly good on the intelliectual background to Doyle's work (The Economist)

Andrew Lycett's genuis as a biographer matches Holmes's as a detective (Newsletter of Sherlock Holmes Society of London)

admirable clarity and fairness... (the book) must surely, at this juncture, become the standard biography (The Tablet)

Lycett's sophisticated account reveals a character with light and shade (The Daily Telegraph)

Lycett's book has the effect of moving Conan Doyle into our age (Scottish Review of Books)

Marvellous.. by far the most comprehensive biography of the man to date (The Fortean Times)

This is a model biography: lucid, fair and unfailingly readable (Mail on Sunday)

authoritative (The International Herald Tribune)

Scrupulous, authoritative (Asian Age)

Lycett uses the new material well to draw conclusions about Conan Doyle's character (Boston Globe and Mail)

Book Description

Ground-breaking biography of the creator of fiction's best loved detective

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By b on 1 Jan. 2009
Format: Paperback
Conan Doyle was the creator of one of the great literary icons, a successful doctor, fascinated by spiritaulism and contact with the undead. He was both a keen sportsman and a brave journalist, travelling to conflict zones to report and to transcribe his own versions of events. In this biography, Andrew Lycett explores the complexities of this remarkable Scottish writer and shows how the writer could campaign proudly against injustice yet treat his wife and children harshly.

Lycett explores Arthur's difficlt relationship with his alcoholic father and his sympathy for his mother. We learn of the inspirational teachers who shaped his studies as a doctor and how they may have influenced the development of some of his most famous characters. We appreciate the speed and fluency of his writing and how he would often use his skills as a patriotic tool, how his interest in writing was stimulated by his ambition to write detailed historical works that demonstrated his research and mastery of his subject and how his detective novels and adventure stories paid the bills.

Having read this biography, it's difficult to admire the man himself or really to discern what the writer feels about him. Much of this is down to Lycett's skills in presenting what seems to be a detailed and objective portrayal. In his notes, he records the frustrations caused by Doyle's estate and the fact that many quotations have been removed may mean that we are not able to access as full a representation of this remarkable figure as the writer intended. I would like to have learnt more about contemporary responses to his writing and for a fuller discussion of his development as a poet and a dramatist.

I would suggest this biography is mainly successful as it does leave me wanting to learn more about Arthur Conan-Doyle however I do feel it is much more successful as an account of his life than of his literary works.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Mr. David B. Cowell on 19 Nov. 2007
Format: Hardcover
Mary Cable the American writer said that the best biographies leave their readers with a sense of having all but entered into a second life and of having come to know another human being in some ways better than he knew himself and Andrew Lycett's biography of Arthur Conan Doyle is no exception to this rule. If, as I do, you like to truly understand the subject and his or her antecedents then this is the book for you. As with his biographies of Dylan Thomas and Rudyard Kipling, Lycett has managed to delve deep into an already well researched subject to find even more information about Conan Doyle. Information that may reinforce your admiration for the creator of Sherlock Holmes or, and do be warned, may diminish it. Whatever the outcome you will not be disappointed by this excellent biography.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John Hopper TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 24 April 2012
Format: Paperback
This was a very comprehensive and readable biography. While knowing this point already, I was struck again by the fact that Sherlock Holmes represents a fairly small portion of his life and output, and not one that he initially rated highly, until its great success changed his attitude to some extent. That said, it felt like the Holmes stories were what he wrote to bring in the financial security to enable him to focus on the things about which he cared most, chiefly his evolving spiritualist beliefs and accompanying lecture tours, and his attempts at military history. The development of those beliefs in the supernatural is a theme running throughout the book, from his early attempts to reconcile his scientifically-rooted medical knowledge with his instinctive belief in a God (though not necessarily the Catholic God of his upbringing and schooling), to his more determined pursuit of spiritualism especially during and after the First World War. The (in)famous Cottingley fairies incident is dealt with quite briefly, though. Doyle emerges as a man of contradictions who wasn't afraid to face ridicule or unpopularity. He was a man of science with a passionate and utterly sincerely held belief in life after death; he was an Empire loyalist staunchly supporting Britain in the Boer war, but who passionately supported the plight of the native Congolese suffering under Belgian rule; he was a man of fairly conventional political views but who supported victims of miscarriages of justice such as Oscar Slater and George Edalji.

This contains a very full genealogical table -unusual for a biography of a non-Royal/aristocratic subject - but there are a number of discrepancies between it and dates given in the text. It also includes an afterword detailing the sordid attempts by his children and other literary heirs to profit from his estate. 5/5
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Neil Bryan on 1 May 2013
Format: Paperback
I feel compelled to contribute as I noticed an earlier '1 star' effort seemed to be an attack on the author's take on spiritualism. History and science are certainly on Lycett's side in the examples be refers to where spiritualism is shown to be at best misguided belief and at worst utter charlatanism. The exploration of Doyle's relationship with Houdini, whose views were opposed to his own, is very compelling. This is however one aspect of the biography - there are host of others. Lycett's humane evocation of Conan Doyle's life made a lasting impression on me. In the four years since I read it I've not come across a better better biographical work than this. Read it you certainly won't be wasting your time.
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