“Make no mistake: I am a student of the life of Sherlock Holmes, and not Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I play “The Game” with great seriousness. My two trips to England, and in particular London, have been Holmes Pilgrimages. Any time that I happened to cross the path of Conan Doyle, Watson’s first – but not only – literary agent, was usually by accident. (Stopping to look at two of Doyle’s London homes, for instance, happened only because they were on the walk between other Holmes-related sites, and not because they were destinations in-and-of themselves.)
In spite of this statement, I believe that I have most, if not all, of the previous Doyle biographies in my collection – those by Carr, Pearson, Stashower, Costello, Lellenburg and Stashower, Jaffee, Symons, Higham, and even Doyle’s own autobiography, “Memories and Adventures”. They are all go-to’s when I’m researching some fact or other in relation to the lives of Holmes and Watson.
In 2015, I came up with the idea of, and then edited and contributed to, the ongoing Holmes anthology series, “The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories”. These author royalties for these volumes go to benefit the Stepping Stones School for special needs students, located at Undershaw, one of Doyle’s homes. It was through this effort that I became much more aware of both Doyle and Undershaw. While learning about this special place, I actually began to wish that I had visited this Doyle residence because of Doyle, and not just because of connections to Holmes and Watson.
At about this time, I happened to acquire the three excellent biographies of Doyle – “The Norwood Author”, “An Entirely New Country”, and “No Better Place” – all written by Alistair Duncan, in which new insights are provided into three crucial eras of the man’s life.
“An Entirely New Country”, spanning those years on either side of the beginning of the twentieth century, is the volume that specifically covers the Undershaw years. This was a difficult time for Doyle, as his wife, Louisa, was slowly dying, while he was falling in love with the woman who would become his second wife, Jean Leckie. During this period, Doyle’s celebrity was growing – he was writing books, stories, and articles, and while living at Undershaw, he participated in the publication of the first new Holmes adventures since Holmes had been reported killed at Reichenbach Falls in “The Final Problem”. It was here that “The Hound of the Baskervilles” was polished for publication, and then stories in “The Return of Sherlock Holmes” were authorized following Sherlock Holmes’s retirement in October 1903. This book is a tribute not only to what Doyle accomplished while living at Undershaw, but to the building itself, and how important it is to rescue it from the years of neglect that have nearly destroyed it.
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. One can only hope that Duncan will now back up and cover the man’s life from his birth in 1859 to 1891.”
Reviewed by David Marcum.
An Entirely New Country is available through all good bookstores including Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK,Book Depository ( free worldwide delivery) and in all electronic formats including iTunes, Kobo, Nook and in a very popular Kindle version that includes the dozens of photos.