Elementary, my dear Watson!

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote those two lovely pieces of prose mentioned last week.

When Doyle’s name gets mentioned, everybody thinks “Sherlock Holmes.” From then on, it’s all about the character.

That’s too bad, because Arthur Conan Doyle was an excellent all-around writer.

My Inspiration for Writing

Last week’s excerpt that contrasted homey countryside with a dark moor and armed guards at the train station was from “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” as many of you probably easily guessed.

I first read that as a teen when we were playing candlepins one day after school. There was a Sherlock Holmes book there, and I picked it up and got into the “Hound.”

Now, I had done a lot of reading by then, but this was first time words actually transported me to the scene they were describing.

That’s when I first saw the power of writing. It really was my first gentle but irresistible wake-up call.

For what it’s worth (everybody has their own favorite Holmes stories), I think Doyle’s masterpiece, in terms of sustained excellent writing throughout a complicated story structure and plot, was “The Valley of Fear.”

Doyle’s Inspiration for The Lost World

I liked The Lost World, too, but it was more difficult to find an excerpt for last week’s post as my favorite parts involve the characters interacting with Professor Challenger, and of course that name would give it away at once.

Ed Malone’s initial description of the cliffs was a good second choice because it’s moody but also makes you want to know what the heck is up there.

Yes, Huanchaca works quite well, too!

Yes, Huanchaca works quite well, too.

The image of cliffs may have been an error, though. That was a tepui in the Guiana Highlands, north of the Amazon, included because I had heard that those were Doyle’s inspiration for his mysterious plateau.

However, Dr. Wikipedia says that Doyle’s descriptions came from a friend’s expedition to Huanchaca Plateau in the Guaporé/Brazilian Shield region of Bolivia, south of the Amazon.

Does anyone know for sure which it was?

Another Doyle Invention?

Here’s something else to wonder about, though it’s a bit of a spoiler if you haven’t read The Lost World or seen the movie.

The intrepid explorers bring back a critter to prove Professor Challenger’s ideas about the plateau were correct – indeed, that was one reason why they went there in the first place. In the book, it’s a pterodactyl and in the movie a “brontosaurus,” as apatosaurus was called back in the day.

Either way, the critter gets loose and rambles through London scaring people.

Here’s the question – was Doyle the first to have this idea of the Wild and Strange ransacking the City? If so, then it’s another cultural contribution of his quite on a level with the invention of Holmes and Watson.

Though Sir Arthur might not have expected it to develop into this.

Though Sir Arthur might not have foreseen this.

Categories: Thursday Lit

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