What is your favorite Sherlock Holmes story? Under the circumstances, this seems an odd question for a reporter to ask. Amid the chaos of a South African military hospital, the man from the Illustrated London News had seized a moment to interview the hospital's supervising doctor. In 1900, the Boer Wa r was at its height, the hospital was overwhelmed with a typhoid fever epidemic, and dead and dying men crowded the floor between the overflowing cots. The supervisor, desperately busy, could not help being irritated when the reporter spouted such a frivolous question. But, as always, he tried to be courteous. [Perhaps the one about the serpent,] he replied. [But for the life of me I can't remember the name of it.]
With his energy concentrated on saving men's lives, it is not surprising that a doctor would not want to waste his time on popular detective fiction. But even so, he might have been expected to remember at least the title of the story. (It's [The Adventure of the Speckled Band.]) After all, he was Arthur Conan Doyle, and he had written it himself.