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Even the most learned of Baker Street Irregulars will enjoy Sims’ look at the making of Sherlock Holmes.

Those were the footprints of a gigantic…forensic scientist!

Like Abraham Lincoln and Adolf Hitler, if for very different reasons, Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) and his fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, have filled libraries with secondary works. Sims (The Adventures of Henry Thoreau: A Young Man's Unlikely Path to Walden Pond, 2014, etc.), a thoughtful literary biographer and sympathetic reader, adds a fine book to their number with this portrait of Doyle as a medical practitioner who wedded a talent for writing with the good fortune of having a useful model in the form of one of his professors. Joseph Bell, eccentric and inimitable, had an “oracular ability not only to diagnose illness but also to perceive details about patients’ personal lives.” Like Holmes, Bell could look at a frayed sleeve and divine how it got that way or could listen to a person speak and know within a couple of blocks where he or she hailed from and the circumstances of his or her life. But why a detective and not some version of a crusading coroner? Perhaps because such a figure didn’t exist, and even the detective was a fairly new creation, a genealogy that Sims ably traces a few decades before Doyle’s time to Edgar Allan Poe and his Dupin. Holmes is not just a Dupin, though; it took that leavening of Bell to lift Doyle from his mithridatic experiments with drugs and poisons to fame. Sims’ story effectively retells the story of the young Doyle as something of a Holmes himself, someone who could persuade readers that “seeming clairvoyance beyond the limits of direct knowledge was possible in the real world.” The author’s deeply researched but reader-friendly take on Doyle and Holmes fits nicely along recent books by Michael Dirda and Barry Grant, and it stands, like Samuel Rosenberg’s centrifugal book Naked Is the Best Disguise (1974), as a work of literature all its own.

Even the most learned of Baker Street Irregulars will enjoy Sims’ look at the making of Sherlock Holmes.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63286-039-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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