Book: Teller of Tales

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Teller of Tales: The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle

Author: Daniel Stashower
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company

This fresh, compelling biography examines the extraordinary life and strange contrasts of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the struggling provincial doctor who became the most popular storyteller of his age. From his youthful exploits aboard a whaling ship to his often stormy friendships with such figures as Harry Houdini and George Bernard Shaw, Conan Doyle lived a life as gripping as one of his adventures. Exhaustively researched and elegantly written, Teller of Tales sets aside many myths and misconceptions to present a vivid portrait of the man behind the leg of Baker Street, with a particular emphasis on the Psychic Crusade that dominated his final years-the work that Conan Doyle himself felt to be “the most important thing in the world.


Despite (or because of) the tremendous success of his Sherlock Holmes stories, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle always tended to play down their value and importance in his life. Just before his death in 1930, he drew a memorable sketch of his life's work. Conan Doyle portrayed events from his life as a series of packing cases being loaded onto a wagon and pulled by a flea-bitten workhorse. Perhaps the heaviest case of all, notes Daniel Stashower in his fascinating biography Teller of Tales, is the one that reads "Sherlock Holmes."

Stashower's intent is to show that Conan Doyle was not Sherlock Holmes, and that his life consisted of much more than the now ridiculed spiritualism to which he devoted much of his later years. He succeeds to a surprising degree, convincing us that The White Company and Sir Nigel (forgotten novels that Conan Doyle thought were his best) are indeed worth reading. As for the spiritualism, Stashower meticulously places his subject's long fascination with it into a compassionate and fully researched social context. We come away certain that Conan Doyle (along with many other worthy citizens of the period) really believed in it. --Dick Adler

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