Magazine article Insight on the News

Dastardly Deductions

Magazine article Insight on the News

Dastardly Deductions

Article excerpt

A British researcher has accused Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, of plagiarism and poisoning, sending fans of the author and his great detective into a frenzy.

What's this? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle a murderer? The plot has thickened considerably for those who cherish the clever civility of Sherlock Holmes, the celebrated pipe-puffing detective. His creator has been accused of murder, along with plagiarism, deception and a bit of hanky-panky.

Doyle would be mortified, most likely, to learn that a fellow Englishman believed he stole the plot for The Hound of the Baskervilles from another writer, then poisoned that very writer and ran off with his wife back in 1907. But this is what researcher Rodger Garrick-Steele believes, and he has been accumulating circumstantial evidence for 11 years.

Garrick-Steele has spun his tale to several major newspapers, including The Times of London, and has written a 446-page manuscript detailing his findings. Needless to say, Holmes fans are in full cry.

"Complete bunkum. Absolute nonsense," declaims Heather Owen of the Sherlock Holmes Society in London. "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a man of honor."

"This fellow may be engaged in a great publicity stunt," declares Tim Johnson, curator of the Sherlock Holmes collection at the University of Minnesota, the world's largest assemblage of Doyle's works.

"It's a good tale, but the guy is looking for a publisher," notes Peter Blau of the Red Circle, another Sherlockian society, based in Washington.

Garrick-Steele -- variously described as an author, undertaker, psychologist, driving instructor and real-estate developer -- is convinced that Doyle originally heard the tale of the spectral Baskerville hound from one Bertram Fletcher Robinson, an acquaintance and fellow journalist who lived in Dartmoor, in southwest England. Academics long have mulled over this possibility. Doyle did thank "my friend Fletcher Robinson" in the original version, published in Strand magazine, in 1901. And Robinson's coachman was named Harry Baskerville.

The 58-year-old Garrick-Steele first became intrigued with Doyle a dozen years ago when he took up residence in the wee town of Ipplepen, on the edge of Dartmoor, where the hound's story transpired. One day, according to Garrick-Steele, a photo of a young Doyle mysteriously appeared on his doorstep. He hung the photo in his living room, but the photo kept "jumping" off the wall. …

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