Monday, September 15, 2008

Ruth rendell on A. Conan Doyle

Ed here: How can you go wrong with Ruth Rendell writing at some length about Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes?

Ruth Rendell
The Guardian,
Saturday September 13 2008

Authors are often asked where they get their ideas from. Some will say that their plots come from newspapers, others simply from their imaginations. Most often, I think, fiction is derived from an anecdote told by a friend, though not perhaps with the intent of its being used as the basis of a story or novel. So it was with the journalist and folklorist Bertram Fletcher Robinson, who entertained his friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with horror stories of Devon while they were together on a golfing holiday. He told him legends of the spectral hounds that were said to roam Dartmoor, phantom creatures with red eyes, whose huntsman is Satan.

"My dear Robinson," Conan Doyle wrote to him later, "It was your account of a west country legend which first suggested the idea of this little tale to my mind. For this, and for the help which you gave me in its evolution, all thanks.

"Yours most truly, A Conan Doyle."

The story was The Hound of the Baskervilles and, to the great delight of Conan Doyle's readers - they were legion - Sherlock Holmes was its protagonist. Nothing unusual in that, perhaps, but for the fact that his creator had apparently killed Holmes years before. In 1896 he wrote of his detective: "I have had such an overdose of him that I feel towards him as I do towards pâté de foie gras, of which I once ate too much, so that the name of it gives me a sickly feeling to this day."

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