Conan Doyle’s first novel to be Portsmouth literary festival highlight

LITERARY LEGEND Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
LITERARY LEGEND Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
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FOR more than 100 years a real mystery has hung over Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – what became of his first book?

But all will be revealed when the editors of the never-before published novel, The Narrative of John Smith, address an audience at this year’s Portsmouth BookFest.

Speaking to fans at Portsmouth’s central library will be one of the British Library’s lead curators Rachel Foss and her fellow editor Jon Lellenberg.

She said the new book – written in Portsmouth when Conan Doyle was just 23 years old – gives readers an insight into how one of England’s best-loved writers began his career.

‘He wrote it in 1883 when he was a young man trying to establish himself as a doctor in Southsea,’ she said. ‘It is important because it provides a glimpse into one of the most brilliant literary minds of the 20th century.

‘And it is very fitting to be giving this talk – the first one we’ve done – in Portsmouth where he wrote the book and where many of his manuscripts are kept.’

Ms Foss said she found the four notebooks which make up the book while looking through an archive of Conan Doyle’s work that the British Library came to own in 2004.

‘It is not a finished novel in the same way as his later books, but you can still see the interests in spiritualism, politics, empire, religion and the like which he continued to explore throughout his career, she said.

‘There are also similarities to the first Sherlock Holmes story A Study in Scarlet.’

The talk will take place in the Portsmouth History Centre, in the city’s Central Library at 7.30pm on Monday, November 7. Tickets cost £3 and can be bought by calling (023) 9268 8685.