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Teller of Tales: The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle [Paperback]

Daniel Stashower
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 July 2001
More than a hundred years have passed since the creation of Sherlock Holmes, perhaps the most famous fictional character of all time. But while the legendary detective lives on in the popular imagination, the man who created him is often overlooked and frequently misunderstood. This fresh and compelling biography examines the extraordinary life and strange contrasts of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the struggling provincial doctor who became the most popular storyteller of his age. From his youthful exploits aboard a whaling ship to his often stormy friendships with such figures as Harry Houdini and George Bernard Shaw, Arthur Conan Doyle lived a life as gripping as one of his own adventures. Exhaustively researched and elegantly written, "Teller of Tales" sets aside many myths and misconceptions to present a vivid portrait of the man behind the legend of Baker Street, with a particular emphasis on the psychic crusade that dominated his final years - the work that Conan Doyle himself felt to be "the most important thing in the world". I have had a life which, for variety and romance, could, I think, hardly be exceeded, Conan Doyle once wrote. "Teller of Tales" presents that story with rare panache.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (5 July 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140285741
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140285741
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 953,373 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Amazon Review

Despite (or because of) the tremendous success of his Sherlock Holmes stories, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle always tended to play down their value and importance in his life. Just before his death in 1930, he drew a memorable sketch of his life's work. Conan Doyle portrayed events from his life as a series of packing cases being loaded onto a wagon and pulled by a flea-bitten workhorse. Perhaps the heaviest case of all, notes Daniel Stashower in his fascinating biographyTeller of Tales, is the one that reads "Sherlock Holmes". Stashower's intent is to show that Conan Doyle was not Sherlock Holmes and that his life consisted of much more than the now ridiculed spiritualism to which he devoted much of his later years. He succeeds to a surprising degree, convincing us that The White Company and Sir Nigel (forgotten novels that Conan Doyle thought were his best) are indeed worth reading. As for the spiritualism, Stashower meticulously places his subject's long fascination with it into a compassionate and fully researched social context. We come away certain that Conan Doyle (along with many other worthy citizens of the period) really believed in it. --Dick Adler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Daniel Stashower is the author of two mystery novels and a winner of the Raoymond Chandler Fulbright Fellowship in Detective and Crime Fiction Writing. He lives in Washington DC.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HATS OFF! SUPERB BIOGRAPHY 27 July 2007
By Apratim
This is,in my opinion,the best biography of the great man touching upon the more sensitive issues of his life tenderly,and in the process giving us a rounded portrait of the complexities and contradictions of this pioneer's mind.I can swear,that i was never interested in conan doyle the man,before reading this biography.It chanced so,that i got hold of this book in my local library,and as nothing more interesting was to be found ,i brought it back with me.On the way back i glanced at the back cover of the book ,where these words were written--

".......most surprising was his obsession with spiritualism and the paranormal.What led the creator of the practical,scientific holmes to spend years trying to reach the other side?"

WHAT indeed--I thought.Little did i know at the time,that this book will become my unputdownable companion and dominate my reading habit a lot.

In many ways conan doyle was an exception and his life exceptional.A complex life is the best subject of a biographer.The added quality of this book is the prose and style of stashower.As we know,in literature it is far more important that how you say rather than what you say.I have read almost five other biographies of conan doyle and never have i found the same man.The life is the same,the story is the same,but the attitude is completely different.
Doyle became a chief propagator of spiritualism at a later period in his life.This is a disturbance to all his biographers as it makes their subject a lunatic and therefore not worthy of study.They either avoid this or tread with caution in this ground.To stashower,however,this is the point of interest,and it is to explain this "contradiction",he has written the book.Therefore,like the others,he doesn't start his tale with the hero's birth.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easily the most readable biography 3 Jun 2009
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle must be the most written about man who ever lived. There are countless biographies of his life and therefore the challenge for each author is to find a new angle.

Stashower has achieved this by taking a sympathetic view of ACD's interest in the spirit world and, despite being a sceptic himself, does not look down on the opinions of his subject.

Also, in stark contrast to many more recent biographies, this one is extremely readable and doesn't remotely feel like hard work.

The only thing to bear in mind is that later biographers have had access to more information than Stashower and hence their biographies can be more up to date or contain details missing from Stashower's.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Daniel Stashower, recent winner of BOTH the Edgar Award and the Agatha Award is deserving of both these high honors. His book on A. Conan Doyle investigates an aspect of this writer most have overlooked: Doyle's poassion for spiritualism. While the author describes himself as a "coridal Skeptic" this in no way diminsihes his admiration of the man who brought us Sherlock Holmes.
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