It is suffice to say that the literary world as we know it would be drastically different without the inclusion of the world’s most famous detective. Sherlock Holmes was first brought into existence by Arthur Conan Doyle in the 1887 A Study in Scarlet, the first in a series of fifty-six short stories and four novels featuring the crime-solving adventures of Holmes and his compatriot, Dr. Watson. The character proved to be immensely popular and would achieve crowning status as the face of the crime fiction genre.
Sherlock Holmes would become so renowned, in fact, that Doyle would grow to despise the character’s overarching status as it cast an inescapable shadow over the rest of his published work. Despite having sent Holmes plummeting off the Reichenbach Falls to meet his supposed end in The Final Problem, public outcry would force Doyle’s hand in bringing the beloved detective back to life, with the last publication featuring Holmes being released in 1927. It seemed that Arthur Conan Doyle’s legacy would become defined by this singular creation of his, persisting even to this today.
As a result, many of us may not be aware of the author’s various other books that were produced alongside his crime fiction. We’re taking a look at those very novels in the hopes that it may inspire you to explore what else the legendary writer has to offer.
The first entry on this list transports us to the Hundred Years’ War from the ages of old. The book’s title, The White Company, is derived from the name of a group of medieval archers led by the valiant Sir Nigel Loring. The story’s twenty-year-old protagonist, Alleyne Edricson, departs from a Catholic abbey in 1366 to see the world for himself. Edricson soon finds himself in France as a squire for Sir Nigel Loring along with his band of mercenaries. The group establishes close bonds with each other across their exciting adventures within Europe as The Hundred Years’ War rages on.
The members of The White Company endeavor to distinguish themselves in the line of duty over the course of the novel, and Edricson himself is soon knighted for his accomplishments. However, when his gaze falls upon Sir Nigel’s daughter, Lady Maude, the young soldier becomes wildly enamored. As an attack by the Spanish and French forces falls upon the company, Alleyne is wounded and his fellow soldiers are faced with total destruction. Will The White Company prevail through the horrors of war and emerge victorious in glory? Will Alleyne Edricson’s feelings toward Lady Maude be met with reciprocation?
Arthur Conan Doyle’s The White Company was largely inspired from real mercenary groups during the 14th century and features many names that can be recalled from history, albeit with a touch of Doyle’s imagination. If you’re craving for some old-fashioned chivalry, heroism, and adventure, be sure to keep this classic piece of historical fiction on your radar.
Sherlock Holmes wasn’t Doyle’s exclusive attempt at producing a mystery-oriented narrative. The Mystery of Cloomber was first published in 1888, one year following Holmes’ initial debut, and takes place in the isolated Machars Peninsula located in southwest Scotland. The story is told through the perspective of John Fothergill West who has recently moved to Wigtownshire to take care of his relative’s estate. He takes notice of Cloomber Hall, a seemingly abandoned residence next to his own. This changes, however, with the arrival of General John Berthier Heatherstone of the Indian Army, who settles down in Cloomber Hall, yet not without a strange sense of oddity.
It becomes clear to observant neighbors that Heatherstone is extremely paranoid and lives in fear amidst strange occurrences. A mysterious tolling of a bell can be heard, an inexplicable phenomenon that seems to bring the old General a great deal of distress. With time, it becomes apparent that these fears are somehow associated with Heatherstone’s past in the Indian Army. The enigma only grows when a shipwreck on the bay yields survivors, three of whom are Buddhist monks. Upon receiving this revelation of their arrival from John Fothergill West, the General despondently resigns himself to his fate.
What appears to be a frightened man’s paranoia quickly evolves into a horrific struggle with the past, one rife with bloodshed, guilt, and supernatural forces that seek vengeance. The question then becomes, will our narrator survive the ordeal to tell the tale?
3. Sir Nigel
We’ve spoken of Alleyne Edricson and his adventures in the ranks of The White Company under Sir Nigel Loring, but what of Loring himself? How did the admirable and valiant Knight rise to his rank and achieve recognition? Sir Nigel, The prequel to The White Company seeks to answer this question by turning back the clock to an earlier phase of The Hundred Years’ War to reveal a younger Nigel as a squire seeking honor under the service of King Edward III. Nigel Loring endeavors to become worthy of the hand of Lady Mary in order to wed her. As part of his quest, he is tasked with fulfilling three great deeds of honor.
The adventures of Nigel Loring commence and span from the years 1350 to 1356 as the squire demonstrates courage and heroism in his many expeditions and battles alongside the English army. During the fateful Battle of Poitiers, Loring is pitted against the formidable King of France in battle. To prevail would mean achieving the rank of Knight and ultimately, Lady Mary’s hand in marriage.
Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sir Nigel Loring was crafted from the legacy of the historical figure of Neil Loring, an English soldier who was renowned for his military accomplishments. Readers who were introduced to Nigel Loring in The White Company are sure to enjoy Doyle’s second historical novel featuring the origins of the heroic Knight and may even observe parallels with the younger Alleyne Edricson who would rise to the occasion decades later.
Considered to be the greatest science-fiction novel produced by Arthur Conan Doyle, The Lost World is seen by many as the precursor to the Jurassic Park novel by Michael Crichton as well as its sequel under the same name The Lost World. These would then be further adapted into the highly acclaimed 1993 Jurassic Park film series by Steven Spielberg. However, it was Doyle who paved the way forward with the adventures of Professor George Edward Challenger, a hot-tempered and aggressive man of science who is presented as the complete opposite to Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes’ calculating and calm demeanor.
The prospect of a story of a lifetime pushes journalist Edward D. Malone to pressure the Professor for an interview. These attempts are initially met with angry rebuke and staunch refusal until Challenger finally relents with the promise of confidentiality. It is revealed by the Professor that he had stumbled upon living dinosaurs in a remote plateau within South America. The expedition is fraught with life-threatening danger, seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and total awe at the prospect of thriving dinosaurs who had survived extinction. However, would the explorers find answers for this unique phenomenon and advance the field of science or will the perils of the unknown claim their lives?
Many of us have fantasized about the concept of dinosaurs in the modern age. What would interactions between humans and these prehistoric creatures have been like? The author invites his audience to take a glimpse into such a reality within the pages of The Lost World, long before such fantasies were manifested in cinema.
Fans of 20,000 Leagues under the Sea by Jules Verne will find one of Doyle’s final published works to be especially entertaining. The Maracot Deep revolves around a group of undersea explorers under the guidance of Professor Maracot. The primary focus of their expedition lies in the discovery of the lost city of Atlantis, an ancient civilization that was said to have been lost under the seas due to supernatural intervention. After a harrowing battle with a crustacean in the deepest section of a trench and escaping with their lives, the team is rescued by the remaining Atlantean survivors. They communicate through a peculiar device which enables the projection of thoughts into visible format.
What would seem as a miraculous opportunity to uncover the secrets of Atlantis, its culture, history, and people, quickly takes a dark turn for Professor Maracot and his team as they come face to face with the malevolent force that was responsible for the ancient city’s downfall. Will the undersea crew survive their deep dive and emerge to share their knowledge with the world, or will they suffer a fate worse than death itself in this short-story of oceanic wonder?
The sea was a subject of much mystery during the 20th century. So much was yet to be discovered due to the limitations of time. However, this did not stop the pen from conveying what humanity believed could lie at the bottom of the sea. Arthur Conan Doyle’s imagining of the city of Atlantis reflects an innate curiosity of the unknown, one that the audience will likely relate to.
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