THE stories published in this volume provide windows on a much greater span of Arthur Conan Doyle's life and times than any of the six predecessor volumes, none of which seems to have taken more than eighteen months to compose. Up to now it had been a matter of long stories written at high speed, or of series in which episode followed episode with remarkably little delay in creation. The tide of His Last Bow, both book and story, had intentional ironies. Sherlock Holmes had taken his last bow on several previous occasions--most famously in the apparent death-plunge into the Reichenbach Falls with Professor Moriarty, but most recently (in December 1904) with a firm statement of his retirement in the opening of the last story of The Return of Sherlock Holmes, 'The Adventure of the Second Stain'.
But the stories in His Last Bow, whose advent Conan Doyle announced to the editor of the Strand Magazine, Herbert Greenhough Smith, on 4 March 1908 under the working title 'Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes', were divergences from the old form. These post-retirement, retrospective glimpses of Holmes were occasional pieces, written at their creator's pleasure rather than under the kind of pressure he had formerly feared might cause him to force into a Holmesian mould what was really not Holmesian matter. The result was Holmes revisited, at intervals ranging from two months to two years.
The first two tales were longer than any of the previous short stories about Holmes except 'The Naval Treaty' ( Memoirs) and 'The Priory School' ( Return), while the last of the pre-war group, 'The Dying Detective', was the shortest in length and internal time-span to date. An interval of nearly four years separated it from the 'Epilogue' written during the war, 'His Last Bow' (the last Holmes novel, The Valley of Fear, partly filled the gap), which, a little longer than 'The Dying Detective' and even shorter in internal time-span,