Wilde about Oscar; Book of the Week OSCAR WILDE AND THE RING OF DEATH by Gyles Brandreth ****

Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England), May 25, 2008 | Go to article overview

Wilde about Oscar; Book of the Week OSCAR WILDE AND THE RING OF DEATH by Gyles Brandreth ****


Byline: by Lorne Jackson

HE'S a legendary former resident of Baker Street.

An eccentric Englishman with a great nose for crime and a highly distinctive dress sense.

However, he doesn't wear a deer-stalker hat or puff a pipe.

This bloke is famous for his woolly jumpers.

Gyles Brandreth is his name, not Sherlock Holmes.

Perhaps you only know the plummy-voiced TV presenter because of his residency in Dictionary Corner in Countdown.

Or for his less than distinguished career in the Nineties as a Tory whip in the ailing government of John Major.

But Brandreth is also an author, and has just published the second book in a highly-polished series of detective novels starring none other than Oscar Wilde.

Oscar Wilde And The Ring Of Death isn't merely a well constructed murder mystery.

It's a richly evocative jaunt through the Victorian world of Wilde, with a cameo role for Arthur Conan Doyle, the man who created Sherlock Holmes.

Rather curiously, Brandreth has strong connections to both Wilde and Conan Doyle.

"As a child I lived in a at overlooking Baker Street," reveals the 60 year-old. "From my window I could see the Abbey National Building, which was situated at 221B Baker Street, the address Conan Doyle chose to base Sherlock Holmes."

Later, Brandreth moved from London to attend the Bedales School in Hampshire, a progressive boarding school founded by John Haden Badley, an intellectual from Dudley.

Brandreth, 13 at the time, was close to Badley, even though the school master was in his nineties.

It transpired that the elderly gent had been a friend of Oscar Wilde, and that Wilde's eldest son, Cyril, had attended Bedales.

"The old boy told me all these tales about Oscar, which fuelled my passion for Wilde.

"He told me thatWilde worked very hard at his wit. …

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