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Saturday 27 February 2010

The Norwood Author

by Alistair Duncan

When I was ten years old, I wanted to be Sherlock Holmes, so I was delighted to be asked to review this book about his creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Whilst scholarly in scope and attention to detail, The Norwood Author is also an accessible read and you don’t have to be an expert on Holmes or Conan Doyle to enjoy it.

Alistair Duncan gives some fascinating insights into the period during which Conan Doyle lived in the Norwood area of London. He recreates the local intrigues of the time (1891-1894) including squabbles at the local Literary and Scientific Society and the triumphs of the local cricket team both of which Conan Doyle was deeply involved with.

This book also gives tantalising glimpses into aspects of life at the time. An anecdote about a dead child, for example, illustrates the huge differences between now and then in policing technique and procedures.

What is particularly interesting are the explanations of how Conan Doyle’s time in Norwood surfaced in his writing and in the names he gave to his characters and how his love of golf, which was nurtured during this period, also began to creep into his plots. We also find out about his links to other writers including Jerome K Jerome and JM Barrie.

Alongside his discussion of the great detective Holmes, Alistair Duncan also demonstrates his own detective work in investigating and answering some questions about Conan Doyle that have previously been unanswered.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it one sitting. I recommend it to you as a good source of information on Conan Doyle, but also as an interesting snapshot of life in a London suburb in the late nineteenth century.

This and other books by Alistair Duncan are available here and you can read Alistair’s blog here.

Reviewed by Helen M Hunt


Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

This book sounds fascinating and something I'd enjoy reading too.

Alistair Duncan said...

Then you know what to do :-) Go on. I'll send you a signed bookplate.

Anonymous said...

It does sound great Alistair. I'm off to buy it right now!

Suzanne Ross Jones said...

Terrific review, Helen. Another book for my tbr pile.