Tag Archives: alistair duncan

Close to Holmes – A Look at the Connections Between Historical London, Sherlock Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The London of the late nineteenth century was home to both Arthur Conan Doyle and his famous detective – Sherlock Holmes. This book looks at some of the many locations in both central and outer London that have connections to one or both of these famous names. In addition to examining the history this book also looks at some of the theories that have been woven over the years around Holmes and these locations.

This is a great book for Holmes fans both casual and passionate! It’s a fun and engaging read. And for the mass amount of information that you receive it is a book that is very easy to read! Alistair is a master Sherlockian and this books demonstrate his knowledge and passion for not only Holmes but Conan Doyle and the worlds that these two shared! You will not be disappointed with this read!” – Luke Kuhns

Close to Holmes is available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide including  Amazon USA,  Barnes and NobleAmazon UK,  Waterstones UK,  Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), Amazon Kindle,  KoboNook  and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.

close to holmes


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Winner of the 2011 Howlett Literary Award

The Norwood Author – Arthur Conan Doyle and the Norwood Years (1891 – 1894) by Alistair Duncan

Winner of the 2011 Howlett Literary Award (Sherlock Holmes book of the year) from the Sherlock Holmes Society of London.

During the 1891-1894 period Conan Doyle wrote and published much of his best work including the first two series of Sherlock Holmes short stories. This stunning book includes lots of never seen before material about the beloved creator of Sherlock Holmes.

This book, alongside Duncan’s other two Doyle biographies, provides great insight into Doyle’s real-life during the period stretching from 1891 to his death in 1930. Much of this material has not been seen in the previous Doyle biographies, and that should be an extra treat for scholars who study the life of the man.” – David Marcum

Fans of Sherlock Holmes know, more than anything, that the devil is in the details, and Alistair Duncan’s book is full of them. Details that shaped Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s life, writing, and the famous character that so many people love, are available is abundance, for those willing to seek them out. And I hope you do.” –  Jaime N. Mahoney

The Norwood Author is available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide including The Strand Magazine,  Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble,  Waterstones UKAmazon UK,  Book Depository (free worldwide delivery)Amazon KindleiBooks for the iPad/iPhone,Kobo Books and Nook.

norwood author


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No Better Place: Arthur Conan Doyle, Windlesham and Communication with The Other Side (1907-1930)

Following his second marriage in 1907 Arthur Conan Doyle was looking to the future. The years ahead would see the birth of three children, fresh literary success and the discovery of his new faith. Those same years would also see the First World War, the final adventures of Sherlock Holmes and ridicule from the religious and scientific communities for his beliefs.

I think that the strength of Duncan’s book is that instead of looking at Doyle’s entire life, it is focused on a specific period. This allows the author to bring up things less likely to be included in other biographies. For example, it mentions George Newnes’ passing and Arthur Twidle’s illustrations for The Strand. In not attempting to be comprehensive, it instead is a more directed thorough. Many are not delved into, but it gives a fuller look at what occupied Doyle’s time and attention at the time… In reading No Better Place, one is impressed at just how active Arthur Conan Doyle was. He was constantly “doing something” or involved in some activity or other. Dunan’s book really conveys this sense of busyness. I’ve got a quite a few books about Doyle himself and I learned quite a bit from this one, which makes it a good addition to your library.” –  Robert A. Byrne

No Better Place is available from all good bookstores including The Strand Magazine,  Amazon USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository . In ebook format it is in KindleKoboNook and Apple iBooks (iPad/iPhone).

no better place


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Out this week on audio – Eliminate the Impossible

Out this week on audio –  Eliminate the Impossible: An Examination of the World of Sherlock Holmes on Page and Screen

Now 94 books on Sherlock Holmes Audio Books Pinterest Board

The book begins with a brief examination of the effect that the stories have had on modern crime literature. It goes on to examine the origins of the character of Holmes himself from his appearance to his drug use and supposed dislike of women. We then move onto a mini-biography of some of the significant characters in the series. Each of the original stories by Conan Doyle is examined in an effort to explain some of the more esoteric aspects and an examination is made of the attempts to form a proper chronology for the stories – as Doyle did not write the stories in strict chronological order. The second half of the book focuses on Holmes’s career on the screen. There is a brief examination of some of the more notable actors to have portrayed Holmes and the films in which they appeared. Finally we look at the possible requirements for a definitive screen portrayal of the canon.

Eliminate the Impossible is also available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide including The Strand Magazine,  Amazon USA,  Barnes and Noble,  Amazon UKWaterstones UK, Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), Amazon Kindle,  Kobo,  Nook  and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.



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Interview with Alistair Duncan, Sherlock Holmes historian about his new book on Arthur Conan Doyle and Undershaw

An Entirely New CountryWithin a few moments of talking to Alistair Duncan his passion for Arthur Conan Doyle’s work shows. He is working hard on his fourth book ‘An Entirely New Country’ due out in a few months time which covers Conan Doyle’s time at Undershaw, probably his most famous home. The future of Undershaw is uncertain with the Undershaw preservation Trust (of whom Duncan is a strong supporter) fighting to preserve the house in Doyle’s memory.

We dragged Alistair away from his research to ask him a few questions about the new book, and a few about his previous three books which have established him as one of the most interesting Holmes historians of our time. When the BBC needed an expert to review the first episode of Sherlock in a live interview on BBC Radio 5 live on the day it was to air, several million listeners heard Duncan’s honest, frank and generally very positive comments on the latest incarnation of Holmes and Watson. So why is one of our main Holmes historians focussing on the Undershaw years of Conan Doyle’s life?

Undershaw is where many of the seminal moments in Conan Doyle’s life occurred and the book is shaping up to be one of the most eagerly awaited Sherlockian books of the year. Duncan’s attention to detail and meticulous research is renown. His bestseller by far was his 2nd book, Close To Holmes, a travel guide to London that highlights places important to Holmes and Conan Doyle.

What has been the most interesting new aspect you’ve unearthed about Undershaw?
It needs to be remembered that this book is not specifically about the house but about the period in which ACD lived in it. As a result I’ve discovered very little about the physical house that was not already known. One of the few things that the book will show that I don’t believe has been seen much is the architect’s original sketch of how he planned Undershaw to look.

Why do you think preserving Undershaw is so important?
Undershaw needs to be preserved because it is the only remaining house of ACD’s that has not been either lost or turned to some other purpose (apart from its stint as a hotel). It also enjoys the distinction of being the only house that ACD personally designed and commissioned.

Tell us something unusual about the building?
It was built very much with Louise Conan Doyle in mind. Consequently most doors opened both ways and the staircases had shallow steps. All this was designed with the aim of enabling Louise to move around the house with minimal effort as she had increasing difficulty breathing.

What famous visitors did Conan Doyle have while he was at Undershaw?
EW Hornung (creator of raffles),
Anthony Hope (author of the Prisoner of Zenda)
William Gillette (famous American stage actor and playwright who would later play Holmes on stage)
Bram Stoker (author of Dracula)
Sidney Paget (the illustrator of the Holmes stories and other works of ACD)
Max Pemberton (famous Victorian author)
Bertram Fletcher Robinson (journalist, author and inspiration for The Hound of the Baskervilles)
J.M. Barrie (author of Peter Pan)

What was the main inspiration for the book?
After my last book (The Norwood Author) I was searching for another project. I had no plans at that time to write about the Undershaw years but a number of people independently suggested that they’d like such a book to exist so I thought I should bow to the pressure. In addition – Undershaw represents, in they eyes of many, Conan Doyle’s literary apex and it needs all the publicity it can get in light of attempts to damage it forever.

Which is your favourite aspect of the book?
It is a chance for me to focus on a ten year period of Conan Doyle’s life that saw a huge amount of personal upheaval and literary output. It also saw Holmes become a dramatic hit at the Lyceum.

Of all the Holmes stories which is your favourite and why?
It has to be The Sign of Four. For me it has everything a classic adventure story needs. There’s a romance, treasure, exotic assassins, far off lands and a crime for the detective to solve.

When did you first become interested in Sherlock Holmes?
At age eight when I saw the Basil Rathbone film The Scarlet Claw. From there it was a short step to the books and the rest as they say…….

If you could meet Arthur Conan Doyle on his forthcoming birthday, what would you ask him?
I fear that Conan Doyle would not like me very much. That’s not because I have any objectionable characteristics (well I hope not) but because of my love for Sherlock Holmes. Let’s not forget that he could never understand the fascination that the public had for the character and wanted people to remember him more for his historical novels which, I regret to say, I have little interest in despite owning three of them.

I also do not share his belief in spiritualism so I think we would struggle to sustain a long conversation.

If he could stand the question I would probably ask him if he had ever been tempted to use Holmes as a platform for his spiritualist beliefs and why he never gave into that temptation.

What are you reading at the moment?
After a great many Holmes pastiches I am currently reading a biography of Erwin Rommel.

What’s the best aspect of being a Holmes author?
I think the best aspect (aside from the process of writing) is being recognised and respected as someone whose opinion is worth having.

How do you view the new adaptations of Holmes – the BBC’s Sherlock and the Guy Richie directed movies?
Every screen adaptation of Holmes has taken some liberty or other. In this respect the latest offerings are no different. Where they are different is in the nature of those liberties. Richie’s movie made Holmes a lot more physical (and scruffy) than the books suggested but in other respects it was more canonical than many of the old movies that preceded it.

The BBC series is following in the anachronistic footsteps of Rathbone but apart from its time setting it is arguably the most faithful depiction of the Holmes/Watson relationship that we have had since Granada’s series in the 1980s.

Which other modern day Holmes writer do you most enjoy?
Difficult question as I don’t tend to read many. Les Klinger’s New Annotated Sherlock Holmes is naturally a must-read for any Sherlockian. However the biographical works of Georgina Doyle and Andrew Lycett have been the most enjoyable of recent years.

An Entirely New Country will be available from all good bookstores and in all formats and is already available for pre-order through Amazon UK. For more interesting information on Sherlock Holmes you can follow the very popular Alistair Duncan’s Sherlockian Blog and join the Sherlock Holmes Books Facebook group.


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New Arthur Conan Doyle Book Gets Rave Review

Alistair Duncan’s new book ‘The Norwood Author – Arthur Conan Doyle and the Norwood Years (1891 – 1894)’ has received its first major review – 4 stars and a glowing report from The Bookbag.

The book covers a critical stage in Conan Doyle’s life – and one that has been rarely covered by other historians.

“This book does an excellent job in detailing his activities as a resident of Norwood. There is a comprehensive choice of illustrations, both old and new, and appendices on relevant articles about him in the ‘Norwood News’ as well as his cricket performances. Also included is a brief note of what happened to him and his contemporaries in the ensuing years, and on how Norwood celebrates the legacy of their famous resident over a hundred years later, not least with an exhibition at the local Wetherspoons. The solid research has clearly been a labour of love, and the result is a concise volume with which no Conan Doyle enthusiast should be with out.”

The book comes out on the 1st March and is one of the most eagerly awaited by Doyleans.

The full review is available at  The Bookbag

The Norwood Author

The Norwood Author


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