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In Search of Doctor Watson a Sherlockian Investigation - 2nd Edition Paperback – 28 Sep 2011
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According to the author, this book 'falls naturally into two parts: the Doctor as written about by Doyle, and an exploration of the concept of the foil before, during and after the first appearance of Watson.' She is, however, doing herself an injustice with this relatively bald statement. Part One covers every aspect of a character that you can imagine, the friends and acquaintances on which Doyle may have drawn or not, and, if not, why not for inspiration; the places and actions and fallacies of same in a historical context; Watson s own background and possible 'origins', his income and where that would fit into London society. For me, just as interesting as this detailed investigation is the wealth of background information and research that is included to paint such a complete and convincing picture: the history of the Field Medical Services, the 66th's movements during the Second Anglo-Afghan War, the attitude of the medical profession (including Doyle) towards dressers, the description of Charles Booth s social system etc. etc. Equally fascinating is her attempt to construct a plausible timeline before and, especially, after Maiwand and Peshawar and when Watson met Holmes; naturally she has to excuse the former for the occasional lapse of memory as to precisely in which hospital he was tended for his shoulder wound. She even suggests that Watson purposely chose New Year's Day for their first meeting as it 'makes for better 'theatre'.' Equally interesting is the discussion on the literary duos spawned [by Holmes and Watson], although I would disagree with her argument when discussing Arthur Morrison s lack of success with his Strand stories which appeared soon after The Final Problem that what the readers...of the Strand desperately wanted was a second Holmes and Watson. What they clearly clamoured for and eventually got was the return of the original! Raffles & Bunny, Drs Thorndyke and Jarvis, Lord Peter Wimsey & Bunter, Sexton Blake & Tinker, Poirot & Hastings: they are all there, but the conclusion is, naturally, that there s only one Holmes and Watson! Can I find any fault in this, perhaps definitive, work on Dr. Watson? Well yes, just one: given that the author shares her extensive knowledge of relevant sources with us, an index and/or bibliography would be handy for the interested researcher. Something for the next edition maybe. But in the meantime this one can be wholly recommended. --THE TORR - The Journal of The Poor Folk Upon the Moors The Sherlock Holmes Society of the West Country. Issue No. 43 - Autumn 2013
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Recognizing the importance of Holmes' biographer is paramount. Critically, this topic has been covered before, albeit less loquaciously, by mystery (and Western) author Loren D. Estleman in his Introduction to the mid-1980s Bantam Classic edition. His essay, On the Significance of Boswells, identifies the crucial importance of Watson: "he is both the storyteller and the buffer between the cold, blinding light of Holmes's intellect and the reader."
Carr's own assessment concurs with Mr. Estleman's, but while both arrive at more or less the same conclusion, her journey there is much less enjoyable. In Search of Doctor Watson is chock-a-block full of historical tangents, yet curiously short of paragraph breaks or, for that matter, commas. Her own Introduction is too long--make it a chapter, already!--while the prose-masquerading-as-Appendix seems lost. Chapter 7 is the best of the lot, as the author examines many of the contradictions from the canon. (i.e., How many times did Watson marry?) Chapter 13 offers parallels between Doyle and Agatha Christie, specifically their respective narrators, Watson and Hastings. The latter was obviously heavily influenced by the former, and today's authors who find "inspiration" of the sort enumerated by Ms. Carr might be accused of plagiarism.
Typos are annoying in any published work, more so when they appear in quoted passages from the canon (pages 22 and 62, for example). That is sure to be a deal breaker for many serious Sherlockians. (Is there any other kind?)
This book has huge potential, but falls far short of being completely satisfying, in my opinion. I understand that the Sherlock Holmes Society of London's Roger Johnson made several suggestions to an early manuscript, but this current edition still needs major editing. Perhaps a Third Edition will be more to my liking?
[The reviewer was provided with a complimentary copy of the book.]