The Sherlock Holmes stories and novels form a relatively small part of Conan Doyle’s prodigious output, but it is only in these, despite his desire to excel as a serious historical novelist, that his creative imagination was fully unleashed. Conan Doyle’s first two Holmes novels did not attract much attention, but the stories he began to publish in Strand Magazine in 1890 caught the public mood and were immensely popular. The myth of Holmes, Watson and 221B Baker Street was born.
Part Nietzschean superman, part investigative genius, part forensic scientist, and part Bohemian outsider dependant on cocaine and his violin, Holmes is an endlessly fascinating creation. Unlike Poe’s Dupin, he is not an armchair detective, but a man of action, intrigue and many disguises, as well as intellect. Holmes even survived Conan Doyle’s attempt to kill him off in 1893, and had to be brought back by public demand.
Conan Doyle did more than anyone to lay the foundations for 20th-century crime writers. The best Holmes novel is The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) but even better are the first three collections of stories, his Adventure Novels (1892), Memoirs (1893) and Return of Sherlock Holmes (1905).
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