DMR has a developing series of short blog posts which introduce a set of “Forefathers of Sword and Sorcery”. The latest up for consideration, Arthur Conan Doyle. I must say I’d never even considered him as an influence on R.E. Howard, except in the vaguest way.
In addition to enjoying his Holmes stories, Doyle is also interesting to me for being another of the great names who have Birmingham and Staffordshire connections, alongside Wells, Tolkien, Borges and the Gawain-poet. For instance, I’ve reviewed Sherlock Holmes in the Midlands, which is the book you want if you’re interested in that topic or decide the take a literary touring holiday in Birmingham, Staffordshire and out into the neighbouring Welsh Marches.
Until reading DRM’s post I’d always thought of Doyle in terms of the always-re-readable Sherlock Holmes + some Edwardian horror stories. Even the fairy-world spiritualism of his dotage is of interest, because it tells one something about the pits of fraudulent charlatanry that opened up as religion faded, and how these could swallow up even highly intelligent people. This then reflects on the paths available to the early Wells, the young Tolkien, Kipling, Lovecraft and others, re: the cultural terrain they were navigating.
I must admit that I’ve never once encountered Doyle’s Professor Challenger adventure books, which DMR mentions, nor the various adventure and historical novels which the Doyle bibliography reveals. Professor Challenger is three novels, and two stories, apparently. Ho hum, yet another set of books to get around to… eventually! Ideally when a full-cast unabridged audiobook of such appears, and perhaps with Phil Dragash-like levels of avoidance of modern cynicism and hipster overtones in its vocal delivery.