Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born on May 22, 1859, in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The Doyles were a prosperous Irish-Catholic family. Charles Altamont Doyle, Arthur’s father, a chronic alcoholic, was a moderately successful artist, who apart from fathering a brilliant son, never accomplished anything of note.
At the age of twenty-two, Charles had married Mary Foley, a vivacious and well educated young woman of seventeen. Mary Doyle had a passion for books and was a master storyteller. Her son Arthur wrote of his mother’s gift of “sinking her voice to a horror-stricken whisper” when she reached the culminating point of a story. There was little money in the family and even less harmony on account of his father’s excesses and erratic behaviour.
Arthur’s touching description of his mother’s beneficial influence is also poignantly described in his autobiography, “In my early childhood, as far as I can remember anything at all, the vivid stories she would tell me stand out so clearly that they obscure the real facts of my life.”
What’s a mystery all about? The ending? Well, of course, you say—the denouement, the unraveling of the clues, the big reveal. If it’s too easy to guess the ending before that very moment, or if the ending doesn’t seem to mesh with the clues provided by the author you’re disappointed with it. It’s a lousy mystery, right?
Really? Ever re-read a mystery? Even though you know the solution? (If you’re like me, of course, you can re-read it a year later because you’ve forgotten the solution, but that’s another matter.) But what’s the pleasure in re-reading if the entire pleasure is in the solution dangled like a carrot before you? Tom Stoppard, the great British playwright, opines that a play which depends on keeping its secrets isn’t worth viewing twice—which he found out the hard way. Which brings us to the mystery of Sherlock Holmes. If you’ve read a Holmes story, chances are you’ve read another, and if you’ve read two, you’ve probably read them all and re-read them all, and chances are you’ve picked every bone of that corpus clean, with a great deal of relish. Why on earth would you do that? Where’s the mystery in that? I’ll spill my solution up front: the mystery is in Holmes. It’s been said that next to Jesus and Hamlet, Sherlock Holmes has had more ink spilled about him than any man, real or fictional. Holmes is the black box of literature. Doyle’s genius is not in what he reveals, but what he conceals. The rue depth is not in the notes, but the silences.
Plummer was a versatile actor, at home on the stage, television, and film, and the variety of his roles underscored his versatility and talent. From his early career on stage and television, he appeared in dozens of productions in a short span of years, becoming well-versed in and well-known for Shakespearean plays.
Deerstalker hat? Check. Victorian-era London? Check. Dr. Watson valiantly trying to keep up? Definitely check.
Many of the tales in The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories are as Sherlock Holmesian as they come. But readers will deduce the big twist from the cover: Arthur Conan Doyle didn’t write most of them. Instead, this anthology – touted as the “biggest collection” of Sherlock Holmes stories ever – is full of fond tributes by other writers.