Friday, April 10, 2015
Unlikely Friends: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini:
It is difficult to reconcile Conan Doyle’s belief in Spiritualism with his rational creation Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur, in his later life, became a staunch advocate for Spiritualism. At this same time, Harry Houdini devoted his efforts to unmasking unscrupulous mediums and spirit guides. Ironically, Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were great friends. Both Doyle and Houdini are real life characters in the latest historical fiction collection of Sherlock Holmes mysteries: Sherlock Holmes-The Golden Years.
In The Cure that Kills, Houdini meets Holmes and Watson aboard ship as they steam to America in pursuit of the diabolical Ciarán Malastier. As I attempt to have all my stories be historically accurate, it should be noted that Houdini did sail back to America after a triumphant European tour about the time my story is dated.
In another novella, The Kongo Nkisi Spirit Train, Sherlock meets his maker -- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—at a séance in the Doyle’s Windlesham home. Like Houdini, Holmes subtly unmasks a “mostly fraudulent” medium called Margery—again, a real personality of the time. In this scene from the story, the logical Holmes remarks to Doyle: “Like Diogenes, Sir Arthur, I am, above all, a seeker of truth. And, if it be possible to discover the truth that lies beyond the grave, I myself might expect to find it in deep reflection and lucid prayer, and not around a ill-lit table.”
You can read these tales, and three others, in Sherlock Holmes-The Golden Years—available on AMAZON and all good bookstores.