Everything adduced about Watson in this memoir has its basis in accepted Sherlockian scholarship and contemporary history,"" we're told. Unfortunately, however, though Hardwick's mildly imaginative, well-researched episodes from Dr. Watson's early life may be inspired by hints in the Conan Doyle stories, they miss both the style and character of the man himself. Hardwick's Watson recalls his shaky childhood, starting in Scotland, then yanked to America--where alcoholic Father and ne'er-do-well brother Henry run off to seek gold. . . while virtuous Mother falls in adulterous love with Henry Ward Beecher (who breaks her heart). Back in the British Isles, young John studies medicine, becomes a ""man-about-London,"" dabbles with acting during a rehearsal of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Sorcerer, plays cricket with legendary W. G. Grace. . . and discovers sex--in the form of maid Aggie Brown. (""Ah, women, women, what you have meant to my life!"") Then it's off to Australia to find long-lost Father on his deathbed, to be held up by a highwayman (brother Henry in the flesh), to suffer a few ordeals. And finally, after an amorous dalliance with coffin-ed Sarah Bernhardt in Paris, Watson rediscovers Aggie (mother of his child!) but is nobly spurned by her--which sends him off to war in Afghanistan as ""some purge for my growing desolation""; surviving massacre and typhoid, he returns home for that fateful 1881 meeting with Sherlock Holmes. . . seen here as a father-substitute for father-deserted Watson. Part straight-faced, party silly, and reasonably lively in its episodic, shapeless fashion--but this Watson is anachronistically smirky about sex (including his mum's Beecher affair), devoid of the original's priggish charm, and without a trace of the real Dr. W.'s rich, textured storytelling talent.