Aside Arthur Conan Doyle
Scuttlebutt March 2009, Spermaceti Press (USA).
Bertram Fletcher Robinson, well known to Sherlockians for his assistance to Conan Doyle with the story of The Hound of the Baskervilles, was a prolific author who wrote articles, poems, and more than 50 short stories, most of which dealt with mystery, murder, and revenge. Paul Spiring has collected some of them, reprinted in facsimile from their first magazine appearances, in ASIDE ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE: TWENTY ORIGINAL TALES (London: MX Publishing, 2009; 230 pp., £12.99/$22.95); there are endnotes for each of the stories, and a detailed bibliography of Fletcher Robinson's work.
MayDay MayDay - April 2009.
Bertram Fletcher Robinson’s chief claim to fame is his involvement in the creation of Conan Doyle’s most famous story, The Hound of the Baskervilles. The extent of that involvement has sparked considerable controversy over many years; possibly helping to obscure the fact that Fletcher Robinson was a writer of no little ability on his own account. While a great deal of his written work – he was no mean wordsmith - is accounted for by a successful, albeit short-lived career, in journalism, his short stories also brought him to the notice of the reading public through their publication in a number of the leading periodicals of the day. Paul Spiring has compiled twenty examples of these stories in this new A5 size soft cover book.
Paul, along with his co-author Brian Pugh on two recent publications, (Bertram Fletcher Robinson: A Footnote to the Hound of the Baskervilles, MX Publishing, 2008 and On the Trail of Arthur Conan Doyle: An Illustrated Devon Tour, Brighton Book Guild, 2008) have been instrumental in resurrecting the life of Fletcher Robinson from virtual obscurity. This new publication is Paul’s first solo effort in the field and he must surely be commended for his endeavours in dusting down these stories from yesteryear and presenting them afresh for an inquisitive bunch of new readers.
All the tales are reproduced in facsimile along with the original black and white illustrations. His own detective, Inspector Addington Peace enjoyed some degree of success, while not exactly scaling the heights achieved by a certain well-known creation of his friend, Conan Doyle. Six of The Chronicles of Addington Peace are included, as are six episodes from The Trail of the Dead which he co-wrote with J. Malcolm Fraser. A diverse selection of eight other stories make up the rest. There’s also a bibliography; a useful tool that helps set each story in context.
For most of us, at least until recently, Bertram Fletcher Robinson was merely a name on a footnote, so I for one welcome the opportunity to be able to read some of his work at first hand. I rather think that if Robinson had been more than ‘the assistant plot producer’ (a self-bestowed title) and in reality the co-author of Doyle’s greatest literary legacy (a claim made in the introduction to each Addington Peace chronicle) then The Hound would undoubtedly have been something entirely different from the story which many of us have come to know and love. Whether that would have been for better or worse, we can never really know for sure – can we? As to whether Robinson’s own stories are good, bad or indifferent, I think I’ll leave that up to those who may be more qualified in that department than this particular reviewer.