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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Book "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

About the Book: "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire", written by British author Arthur Conan Doyle, is one of 12 Sherlock Holmes stories collected between 1921-1927 as The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes. It was first published in the January 1924 issues of The Strand Magazine in London and Hearst's International Magazine in New York.

About the Author: Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle was born on 22 May 1859 at 11 Picardy Place, Edinburgh, Scotland. From 1876 to 1881, he studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, including a period working in the town of Aston (now a district of Birmingham) and in Sheffield, as well as in Shropshire at Ruyton-XI-Towns. While studying, Doyle began writing short stories. His earliest extant fiction, "The Haunted Grange of Goresthorpe", was unsuccessfully submitted to Blackwood's Magazine. His first published piece "The Mystery of Sasassa Valley", a story set in South Africa, was printed in Chambers's Edinburgh Journal on 6 September 1879. On 20 September 1879, he published his first non-fiction article, "Gelsemium as a Poison" in the British Medical Journal. In 1882 he joined former classmate George Turnavine Budd as his partner at a medical practice in Plymouth, but their relationship proved difficult, and Doyle soon left to set up an independent practice. Arriving in Portsmouth in June of that year with less than £10 (£900 today) to his name, he set up a medical practice at 1 Bush Villas in Elm Grove, Southsea. The practice was initially not very successful. While waiting for patients, Doyle again began writing stories and composed his first novels, The Mystery of Cloomber, not published until 1888, and the unfinished Narrative of John Smith, which would go unpublished until 2011. He amassed a portfolio of short stories including "The Captain of the Pole-Star" and "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement", both inspired by Doyle's time at sea, the latter of which popularized the mystery of the Mary Celeste and added fictional details such as the perfect condition of the ship (which had actually taken on water by the time it was discovered) and its boats remaining on board (the one boat was in fact missing) that have come to dominate popular accounts of the incident. Doyle struggled to find a publisher for his work. His first significant piece, A Study in Scarlet, was taken by Ward Lock Co. on 20 November 1886, giving Doyle £25 for all rights to the story. The piece appeared later that year in the Beeton's Christmas Annual and received good reviews in The Scotsman and the Glasgow Herald. The story featured the first appearance of Watson and Sherlock Holmes, partially modeled after his former university teacher Joseph Bell. Doyle wrote to him, "It is most certainly to you that I owe Sherlock Holmes ... Round the center of deduction and inference and observation which I have heard you inculcate I have tried to build up a man." Robert Louis Stevenson was able, even in faraway Samoa, to recognize the strong similarity between Joseph Bell and Sherlock Holmes: "My compliments on your very ingenious and very interesting adventures of Sherlock Holmes. ... Can this be my old friend Joe Bell?" Other authors sometimes suggest additional influences—for instance, the famous Edgar Allan Poe character C. Auguste Dupin. A sequel to A Study in Scarlet was commissioned and The Sign of the Four appeared in Lippincott's Magazine in February 1890, under agreement with the Ward Lock company. Doyle felt grievously exploited by Ward Lock as an author new to the publishing world and he left them. Short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes were published in the Strand Magazine. Doyle first began to write for the 'Strand' from his home at 2 Upper Wimpole Street, now marked by a memorial plaque. In this period, however, Holmes was not his sole subject and in 1893, he collaborated with J.M. Barrie on the libretto of Jane Annie. Doyle was found clutching his chest in the hall of Windlesham Manor, his house in Crowborough, East Sussex, on 7 July 1930. He died of a heart attack at the age of 71. His last words were directed toward his wife: "You are wonderful." At the time of his death, there was some controversy concerning his burial place, as he was avowedly not a Christian, considering himself a Spiritualist. He was first buried on 11 July 1930 in Windlesham rose garden. He was later re-interred together with his wife in Minstead churchyard in the New Forest, Hampshire. Carved wooden tablets to his memory and to the memory of his wife are held privately and are inaccessible to the public. That inscription reads, "Blade straight / Steel true / Arthur Conan Doyle / Born May 22nd 1859 / Passed On 7th July 1930." The epitaph on his gravestone in the churchyard reads, in part: "Steel true/Blade straight/Arthur Conan Doyle/Knight/Patriot, Physician, and man of letters". Undershaw, the home near Hindhead, Haslemere, south of London, that Doyle had built and lived in between October 1897 and September 1907, was a hotel and restaurant from 1924 until 2004. It was then bought by a developer and stood empty while conservationists and Doyle fans fought to preserve it. In 2012 the High Court ruled that the redevelopment permission be quashed because proper procedure had not been followed. A statue honors Doyle at Crowborough Cross in Crowborough, where he lived for 23 years. There is also a statue of Sherlock Holmes in Picardy Place, Edinburgh, close to the house where Doyle was born.

My Review: In this story, Holmes receives two odd letters that make reference to vampires. Mr. Robert Ferguson, who comes to 221B Baker Street the next morning, has become convinced that his Peruvian wife has been sucking their baby son's blood. The woman is Mr. Ferguson's second wife, and by his first wife he has an adolescent son of 15, who suffered an unfortunate accident as a child and now does not have the full use of his legs, although he can walk. His name is Jack, and he has suffered beatings at his stepmother's hands, although Mr. Ferguson cannot imagine why. Ever since being found out by her husband, she has locked herself in her room and refused to come out. Only her Peruvian maid, Dolores, is ever allowed in. She takes Mrs. Ferguson her meals.
Even before Holmes and Watson set off for Mr. Ferguson's house in Sussex, Holmes has deduced what is going on, and it has nothing to do with vampires. Holmes's trip is made simply to observe and confirm what he has already deduced.
Mrs. Ferguson's maid announces that her mistress is ill, and Dr. Watson offers to help. He finds an agitated woman in the room upstairs. She speaks of all being destroyed, and of sacrificing herself rather than breaking her husband's heart. She also demands her child, who has been with the nurse, Mrs. Mason, ever since Mr. Ferguson has known about the bloodsucking incidents.
Holmes examines the South American weapons displayed in the house, and meets the children. While Mr. Ferguson is doting on his younger son, Watson notices that Holmes is gazing at the window. He cannot imagine why his friend is doing this.
Mrs. Ferguson is relieved that Holmes tells the truth about what has been happening, as this is exactly what she has wanted: for the truth to come from someone else's lips. It seems that the culprit is Jack, Mr. Ferguson's elder son, who is extremely jealous of his young half-brother. Holmes has deduced this, and confirmed it by looking at Jack's reflection in the window while his father's attention was on the baby. Jack has been shooting poisoned darts — thoughtfully provided by the weapon collection at Cheeseman's — at his brother, and his stepmother's behavior of sucking the baby's neck is thereby explained: she was sucking the poison out. The wounds were caused by the darts, not by her biting.
Another entertaining story by Sir Conan Doyle. I recommend this book to any reader that appreciates a well written mystery, mainly featuring Sherlock Holmes.

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