Tag Archives: dr watson biography

Review of ‘In Search of Dr Watson’ from Molly Carr by An Ill-dressed Vagabond

An Ill-dressed Vagabond is one of the most respected Sherlock Holmes reviewers in the USA. Here is his review of Molly Carr’s fascinating biography of Dr.Watson from May 2011.

“This book is a study of the sources and uses of John H. Watson as presented in the sixty Sherlockian tales written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The author examines the relationship between the characters of Holmes and Watson in a careful fashion to determine why Doyle chose to create Watson as both a foil and a counterpoint for Holmes and how that choice affected the style and development of the stories over the forty years in which they were written. In addition, similar characters in Literature are discussed and analyzed to provide examples of alternative methods and the problems involved in using such figures.

While this seems to be a simple task, it is really anything but simple. The unique nature of Sherlock Holmes as an Archetype of Literature, ‘The Great Detective,’ is actually dependent on the methods Doyle used to present him. These methods all come down to using Watson as narrator, question asker, foil and stalking horse. The two personas of Holmes and Watson together allow the author to select the data to be presented to the readers in a very careful fashion. Holmes can maintain his own counsel without revealing answers before the author is ready. In addition, space and time can be devoted to various items of byplay between the two that constitute ‘filler’ for the stories that would otherwise be rather dry and dull.

In addition to a discussion of the methods Doyle used in writing and the uses he made of Watson, the author needs to discuss the many controversial features of the Sherlockian tales. These include time and dating problems, names of both persons and places, and identification of real events and persons, either included in or excluded from the tales. Most of these discussion items are familiar to Sherlockians, but are presented here in a comprehensive fashion with analyses of several different approaches and aspects. Total agreement is not really possible, but the author works to untangle the mare’s nest and to explain many of the sources of the problems.

Finally, the inspiration for names and places mentioned is examined and several ideas are offered that may help readers to understand what might have been in Doyle’s mind at various times. Several surprising triggers are identified and others proposed as real world inspirations for places, persons and events that showed up in the tales.

This is an interesting and well-written summary of the data available about John H. Watson. It covers a lot of territory and does so in a readable and interesting fashion. Experienced Sherlockians will recognize many points of discussion and readers new to ‘The Grand Game’ will find a strong introduction to Sherlockian ‘higher criticism.’”

In Search of Dr Watson is available from all good bookstores and in all formats worldwide including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Amazon Kindle, Kobo Books and iBooks (iPad/iPhone).


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Interview with Kieran McMullen, author of Watson’s Afghan Adventure, a Sherlock Holmes Novel

Watson's Afghan AdventureNew York city born Kieran McMullen is a veteran of both the Korean DMZ and Desert Storm, which gives you a clue as to the level of military detail there is in his debut Holmes novel – Watson’s Afghan Adventure. This attention to detail has drawn admirers from across the Sherlockian fan base around the world.

His blog is one of the most popular on Watson on the web – with his recent series entitled ‘The Many Watsons’ has elicited many positive comments. We found Kieran busy preparing for another military re-enactment for an interview.

What was the main inspiration for the book?

Having been a career soldier, a student of military history and a lifelong Holmes fan, I often wondered what Watson’s experience had been in the service. I and many of my friends had a good handle on many of Queen Victoria’s “little wars” but the 2d Afghan was not one of them. So why not learn about the war and see what would have been an experience that helped form Watson’s later life and character?

Which is your favourite character/aspect of the book?

Of course, my favorite character is Watson, himself. But what really fascinates me are the parallels to what we are caught in today. There seems to be no change in local tribal attitudes from the time of Watson’s war to the issues my son deals with as a soldier in Afghanistan today. It’s dealing with the tribal issues that helps Watson see what is important in life.

Of all the Holmes stories which is your favourite and why?

Can there be any question that it has to be The Hound of the Baskervilles? It exemplifies both the intellect of Holmes and the intelligence and can-do attitude of Watson. It’s unfortunate that to date it has (even after 28 tries) never really been adequately moved to film.

When did you first become interested in Sherlock Holmes?

My father taught English and Russian literature at St. John’s University in New York. When I was about 8 years old he handed me a book of the canon and “suggested” that I read it over the summer. I was hooked from then on. I couldn’t get enough of the great detective or the good doctor. I must say that I identified more with Watson. I knew I wasn’t the smart guy in the crowd, but if I worked hard I could at least be of assistance to others.

If you could meet Arthur Conan Doyle on his forthcoming birthday, what would you ask him?

Actually, I would like to discuss things that have nothing to do with Holmes. I would like to ask him about his relationship with Sir Roger Casement and what exactly changed his mind from being opposed to Home Rule for Ireland to being in favor of it. This is especially curious considering his attitude during the Boer Wars.

What are you reading at the moment?

At the moment I’m reading “The Irish Rebellion of 1916” by Joy. I’ve always been interested in Irish history and especially the era from the Rising of ’98 through the Civil War. The entire period impacted US and Canadian history to an extent that few people appreciate.

What’s the best aspect of being a Holmes author?

I would have to say that the best aspect is that Holmes is a subject that everyone is familiar with. You can talk about Holmes and Watson and people know exactly who the characters are so there is immediate association. I have to admit that I have been dumbfounded by the number of people who have asked me if Holmes and Watson were real.

How do you view the new adaptations of Holmes – the BBC’s Sherlock and the Guy Richie directed movies?

I have to say that I really like the new BBC series. They have really updated the characters without losing the essence. A really wonder job! I also think the new Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey and Jude Law is wonderful. They really nail Watson as the intelligent man of action. Holmes may be a bit too seedy but it’s so well played overall you can overlook that.

Which other modern day Holmes writer do you most enjoy?

Let’s see, there are only about a thousand to choose from, aren’t there? Of course you can’t go wrong with David Stuart Davies, Michael Hardwick or Frank Thomas.

You can follow Kieran on his blog, Dr Watson, Sherlock Holmes and Watson’s Time In Afghanistan.

Watson’s Afghan Adventure is available from bookstores worldwide including Amazon, Amazon Kindle, Kobo Books, iBooks (iPad) and various other formats.


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