The Quest for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle may be one of the more unusual books in my library, and one that is well worth reading.
This 1987 volume, edited by Jon L. Lellenberg, consists entirely of a Baker Street dozen essays examining at length biographies of ACD – hence the subtitle, Thirteen Biographers in Search of a Life.
In a brilliant move, three of the 13 essays examine autobiographical works by Sir Arthur himself, including those that were thinly disguised as fiction.
All the major biographies published up to 1987 are covered, though time has moved on. It’s regrettable that Daniel Stashower’s wonderful Teller of Tales and Andrew Lycett’s Conan Doyle couldn’t be included, but other major authors (Pearson, Nordon, Higham, Edwards) and some lesser lights get their due.
This book about books is not only fascinating, but also helpful. Reading these essays made me want to read Nordon and convinced me that I can skip Higham – both of which sit happily on my shelves.
The authors of the essays in some cases may be more familiar to Sherlockians than the biographers they review. Of particular note, I think, are the contributions of Richard Lancelyn Green, Howard Lachtman, and Donald and Christopher Redmond. But all contain much of value.
This volume was included in the final edition (in his lifetime) of John Bennet Shaw’s Basic Holmesian Library – often called simply the “Shaw 100.” I’m glad it made the cut. I’m also glad a copy made its way to me a few weeks ago in one of three large boxes of Holmesiana gifted to me by my good friend and faithful reader Deacon Ken Ramsey, Sr. Thanks again, Deacon!