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Conversations with Arthur Conan Doyle Hardcover – 1 Apr 2010


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: White Crow Books (1 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1907661298
  • ISBN-13: 978-1907661297
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.3 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,505,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

I don't think I ever meant to be an author, though with over ten books to my name, it could look that way. But here's another instance when appearances deceive.

I was a priest in the Church of England for twenty years, and imagined it would always be so. But then, with my feet well under the table and to my embarrassment in a way, I decided to leave. When people ask why, I say: 'I just knew the adventure was over.' And the priesthood was an adventure or it was nothing.

It was a difficult time after that, emotionally and financially, because I had nothing to go to. I remember crying on the carpet as I lost my sense of trust in life; and when trust goes, you're vulnerable. Late night conversations with my children helped to keep me going, but a middle-aged ex-priest is not the most employable of souls, and I found myself wondering how I was going to survive. Before becoming a priest, I had written satire for TV and radio, even winning a Sony radio award. But I was a long time out of that loop and had no particular desire to return there anyway.

I did try other forms of writing but became familiar with rejection letters. So I looked for supermarket work, which I had some experience of, before I was ordained. I was turned down by four, but was fifth time lucky. Yes! After so much rejection, it was a great feeling to be accepted at last, and I worked hard and happily in that busy supermarket for three years stacking shelves, chasing thieves, working on the till and chairing the shop union. I write about those days in 'Shelf Life'.

But then it felt right to jump ship again and risk the free lance adventure. I was told that every free lancer should have four strings to their bow, for at any given time, at least two would be snapping. I had perhaps one string at this time, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

'The Beautiful Life' (Bloomsbury) had been published while I was working in the shop. It was an important book for me - re-written eight times - and one or two doors began to creak open. I got myself a website (www.simonparke.com) started offering retreats, counselling and fresh writing including my supermarket diaries and 'One-Minute Mystic,' both of which went on to become long-running columns in the Daily Mail. I'd also started a weekly column in the Church Times. It was meant to last six weeks but is still going after six years. I've been very lucky.

And all the time, there was a book on the boil. An Enneagram book with Lion, was followed by 'One-Minute Mystic' and 'One-Minute Mindfulness' with Hay House. And Bloomsbury has re-printed 'The Beautiful Life' in paperback now. It's a slightly revised version of the original with a new cover and called 'The Journey Home.'

I have also had a wonderful adventure with White Crow books, in the shape of the 'Conversations with' series. They are a series of conversations with fascinating figures from history like Leo Tolstoy, Meister Eckhart, Vincent Van Gogh, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Jesus of Nazareth. What's different with these conversations is that although the questions are imagined, their words are not; it is 100% them. I found it a particularly helpful way to get to know these people, and others appear to be finding the same, whether in e book, hard copy or audio. (Yes, I enjoyed the recording studio experience very much, working with such kind, creative and talented people.)

In the meantime, my counselling work has expanded with one thing leading to another. An unexpected development has been my work supervision of five social workers, which arose from one of them coming on a retreat I led. I've learned a lot from them. And the 'vicar' hasn't died completely. I still get asked to preach in churches occasionally, and to take particular funerals and weddings. And then when work was a bit quiet this summer, I worked for a landscaper and watered the struggling grass in various London parks, which was another joy.

So as I say, I really never meant to be an author, and have no particular sense of being one now. In fact, if truth be told, I'm still the eleven year old boy - aged 53 - wondering what he will be when finally he grows up. Hopefully a footballer.

Product Description

Review

THE NEW YORKER August 30th 2010 SIMON PARKE SPEAKS WITH THE DEAD Book trailers-the low-budget previews modelled on those used by the film industry-have quickly grown tiresome. They're never very interesting, often overly impressionistic and pretentious, and rarely rise above the level of those silly historical reA"nactments you see on cable. They might get better over time, or die out; either is preferable to their current state. An exception, though, are the finely wrought previews for Simon Parke's Conversations with - A" biographies, published by White Crow Books. In this series, Parke bypasses the more quotidian aspects of historical biography by conducting interviewsA" with his subjects-Jesus, Meister Eckhart, Arthur Conan Doyle, Vincent van Gogh, and Leo Tolstoy-with the answers coming from their published writings. The trailers are stagey-with Parke and the actor playing his subject shown in the recording studio while a musical score soars behind their voices-yet the interviews nonetheless feel natural. Much of this feeling owes to the straightforward and unadorned nature of the exchanges, as when Parke asks Vincent van Gogh why he drinks, and the master answers, If the storm gets too loud, I take a glass too much to stun myself.A" The shot cuts to At Eternity's Gate,A" van Gogh's portrait of a man with his head in his hands, but you can imagine the whorls and swirls of the artist's favored darkened skies as well. Here, Parke conducts his interview with Tolstoy in the assured and chatty style of a British talk-show host: http://whitecrowbooks.com/conversations/page/conversations_with_leo_tolstoy This gambit may be viewed as simply a clever gimmick, but there is something compelling about Parke's style, which in a way that is always promised but rarely delivered, does, in fact, bring his subjects to life. Parke's role as the good-natured interlocutor seems to be an essential component of the project, a disposition on display in this cheeky description of his imagined time spent with Tolstoy: He also proved an appalling husband, hated Shakespeare, never came to terms with his sexual appetite and yet had a profound influence on the non-violence of the young Gandhi. My time at Yasnaya Polyana, Tolstoy's country estate, was never dull; and sometimes, surprisingly comic. Soon after I left the great man, at the age of 82, he ran away from home. by Ian Crouch Loose leafs from the New Yorker Books Department.

About the Author

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was one of Britain's most celebrated writers with his invention of the ultimate detective, Sherlock Holmes, completely altering the crime-fiction genre. As well as this he was a pioneering sportsman, doctor of medicine and champion of the underdog, helping to free two men who were unjustly imprisoned. Of most importance to the man himself, however, was his belief in Spiritualism and the spreading of the 'vital message'. He was born Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle into a strict Roman Catholic household. He was sent away to Jesuit boarding schools until he was 17 years old and although some aspects of the religion appealed to him he believed that the foundations of Catholicism, and all Christian based faiths, were fundamentally weak so he chose to be an agnostic. He received his degree in medicine from the University of Edinburgh Medical School in 1881 and by this time had already began investigating Spiritualism and had began attending seances, a fact that rebuffs the more common idea that he found Spiritualism after his son Kingsley died in 1918. In fact by that point not only had Arthur believed in Spiritualism for almost 30 years but he had even declared this fact in 'The Light' magazine in 1916 and spoken publicly about his beliefs in 1917. His first book to deal with the subject, 'The New Revelation', was published before Kingsley's death too so it is fair to say that Arthur's belief in Spiritualism was not a knee-jerk reaction to his son's death. Arthur didn't immediately fill the void left by his loss of faith in Catholicism with Spiritualism. It took him until 1887 to write 2 letters to 'The Light' in which he discussed his conversion to Spiritualism, a fact that once again plays down any talk of an overnight and rash change of faith. Arthur joined the British Society for Psychical Research in 1893 which at that time counted groundbreaking naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace, philosopher William James, scientists Williams Crookes and Oliver Lodge and future Prime Minister Arthur Balfour amongst its members. During one of his investigations for the Society in 1894 he was involved in a case that re-enforced his beliefs when he, along with fellow researchers Frank Podmore and Dr. Sydney Scott, was asked to look into a possible haunting case at the Dorset home of a Colonel Elmore. The Elmore family had reported strange loud pained sounds that were so disturbing that most of the staff left their jobs and the family dog would not enter the rooms where the noises emanated from. After spending some evenings at the home and hearing some very loud sounds the party left unsatisfied as their findings were inconclusive. Not long after this the body of a young child was found buried in the garden and Conan Doyle believed that it was the spirit of the dead child that was responsible for the phenomena in the house. Although Arthur had continued his research into Spiritualism he hadn't spoken publicly about his beliefs although he did drop hints about his thoughts on the subject through his character Stark Munro in 1895's 'The Stark Munro Letters'. This relative silence all changed as a result of World War I as he himself is quoted as saying; I might have drifted on my whole life as a psychical researcher - but the War came, and it brought earnestness into all our souls and made us look more closely at our own beliefs and reassess our values.A" In 1916 he wrote an article in 'The Light' discussing his change of attitude and reinvigorated belief in Spiritualism and from that moment on his life's work became the spreading of the 'new revelation' even though he was fully aware of the damage it would do to his reputation. 'The New Revelation', which was his first published work to deal with Spiritualism, arrived in 1918 and the following year he released 'The Vital Message' which, again, was solely concerned with Spiritualist matters. By 1920 he had embarked on a tour of Australia and New Zealand promoting Spiritualism and had also wrote about the infamous 'Cottingley Fairies' which would prove to be very damaging to his credibility. In the early twenties he toured America and Canada and in 1924 he translated Leon Denis' 'Jeanne D'Arc Medium' from the French and in the following year travelled through France lecturing. His book, 'The History of Spiritualism', was published in 1926 and from then on until his death in 1930 he continued to go from country to country proselytizing, taking in Rhodesia, South Africa, Uganda, Tanganyika, Kenya, Scandinavia and Holland on his way. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle continued his staunch belief that some part of us survives our physical death right up to his own death of a heart attack at his home in Crowborough, East Sussex, on 7 July 1930.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ms. M. Foley on 15 April 2010
Format: Paperback
Of all the books by Simon Parke in this series (there are three others at the time of writing this review), this 'conversation' is the most unusual. Simply because the subject turns out to be such a fascinating, excentric and unpredictable man.

I was intrigued by Arthur Conan Doyle, not knowing much beyond his literary claim to fame. Now I do know.

The book is a joy to read for its wealth of information about such a variety of things: his friendship with Houdini, views on Suffragettes fairies (yes, fairies!), and most wacky of all - belief in Spiritualism.

But never mind the ultimate questions of the human existence, and the even more ultimate lack of unswers; I was just as delighted to discover that Conan Doyle went to the Arctic on a whaling boat Hope as a ship's surgeon. Here's a glimpse of that experience, in his own words:

"The perpetual light, the glare of the white ice, the deep blue of the water, these are things which one remembers most clearly; and the dry, crisp, exhilarating air, which makes mere life the keenest of pleasures."

For all his interest in the afterlife, this was a man intensly in love with life on earth, and this litle book succeeds in showing him in all his multifaceted complexity.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 2 reviews
Oh, wacky man! 15 April 2010
By Ms. M. Foley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Of all the books by Simon Parke in this great series (there are three others at the time of writing this review), this 'conversation' is the most unusual. Simply because its subject turns out to be such a fascinating, excentric and unpredictable person.

I was intrigued by Conan Doyle, not knowing much beyond his literary claim to fame. Now I do. The book is a joy to read for its wealth of information about so many different things: his friendship with Houdini, views on Suffraguettes, fairies (yes, fairies!), and most wacky of all - belief in Spiritualism.

But never mind the ultimate questions about human existence, and the even more ultimate lack of unswers; I was just as delighted to discover that Conan Doyle went to the Arctic on a whaling boat 'Hope' as a ship's surgeon. Here is a glimpse of that experience in his own words:

"The perpetual light , the glare of the white ice, the deep blue of the water, these are things which one remembers most clearly; and the dry, crisp, exhilarating air, which makes mere life the keenest of pleasures."

For all his interest in the sfterlife, this was a man intensly in love with life on earth, and this book shows him in all his multifaceted complexity.
Worth investigating 18 Mar. 2010
By Joe Jacobs - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I'd been reading Sherlock Holmes for years before I discovered that Conan Doyle wrote on many other subjects, some controversial. I thought I'd check out what all of the fuss was about and stumbled upon this book online. In this book the writer imagines what Conan Doyle's response would be to a number of well thought- out questions and the result is that the imaginary Conan Doyle comes to life and explains in simple language his philosophy and thoughts on a myriad of topics. The book is very interesting and worth investigating, if you'll pardon the pun!
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