About the Author

Arthur Conan Doyle is best remembered for the creation of his detective character Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick, Watson. Doyle based the characters on his own experiences as a doctor and created the stories as a way to earn a living. Born in Scotland in 1859, Doyle entered medical school at the age of seventeen. One of his teachers was Dr. Joseph Bell, whose skill in diagnosing illness resulted in a heightened sense of observation and reasoning. As a result Bell could, while diagnosing a patient’s illness, accurately read clues to his or her background and personality as well. Bell’s unusual ability made a lasting impression on Doyle, who modeled some of Holmes’ deductive powers on his teacher’s example. Doyle served as a ship’s surgeon in the early 1880s, traveling to Africa and the Arctic, before returning to England and finishing his degree. At that time, establishing a medical practice was difficult, and Doyle waited in vain for patients to appear. Fortunately, Doyle had another ambition: to become a writer. Several of his early stories, which featured adventure and mystery aboard ships and in Africa, had appeared in magazines while he was still a medical student. The increasing burden of time on his hands-along with a wife and growing family to support-led Doyle to attempt a novel. Knowing that detective stories often brought their writers popular success, Doyle turned to his memories of Dr. Bell to create his work of fiction. Relying on the model set by Edgar Allan Poe’s stories of the amateur detective Dupin, whose cases are narrated by an admiring and less clever friend, Doyle introduced Holmes and his sidekick Dr. John Watson in A Study in Scarlet in 1887. This novel met with only a lukewarm reception from readers, but an American publisher encouraged Doyle to continue the series with The Sign of Four in 1890. Even though Doyle continued to write and publish other kinds of stories, especially science fiction and historical fiction, the need for money kept taking him back to the profitable Sherlock Holmes. He was able to give up his unprofitable medical practice in 1891 when the short tales of Holmes’ exploits began to command larger and larger payments from the British Strand magazine, where they were being published. “The Red-Headed League” was collected in the 1892 volume The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which Doyle dedicated to Dr. Bell. Though Doyle’s work is not targeted to young adult readers, his work is nevertheless read and studied by students.

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