Adrian Malcolm Conan Doyle (19 November 1910 – 3 June 1970) was the youngest son of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his second wife Jean, Lady Doyle or Lady Conan Doyle. He had two siblings, sister Jean and brother Denis, as well as two half-siblings, sister Mary and brother Kingsley.
Adrian Conan Doyle has been depicted as a race-car driver, big-game hunter, explorer, and writer. Biographer Andrew Lycett calls him a “spendthrift playboy” who (with his brother Denis) “used the Conan Doyle estate as a milch-cow”.
He married Danish-born Anna Andersen, and was his father’s literary executor after his mother died in 1940. He founded the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Foundation in Switzerland in 1965. On his death, his sister Jean Conan Doyle took over as their father’s literary executor.
Adrian Doyle produced additional Sherlock Holmes stories, some with the assistance of John Dickson Carr. The basis of his production was to complete those tales referenced in his father’s stories, which his father had never written.
These additional Sherlock Holmes tales were written in 1952 and 1953, a hardcover collection of the stories was published as The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes in 1954.
They have been reissued subsequently, while other authors have also written Sherlock Holmes stories based on the same references within the original tales.
On 12 September 1942, the Associated Press announced that an authentic, unpublished Sherlock Holmes story had been found by Adrian Conan Doyle. Supposedly written in his father’s uniquely neat handwriting, the story was buried in a chest that contained family documents.
(Actually, Jon Lellenberg reported in 1990, the manuscript was not in Sir Arthur’s handwriting but typewritten.) Sir Arthur’s daughter Jean said she knew the manuscript was not written by her father.[when?] Adrian Conan Doyle refused to publish it.[when?] A month later, the Baker Street Irregulars wrote a letter to the Saturday Review of Literature, insisting that the story be published.
In the United States, Cosmopolitan magazine obtained it and published it in their August 1948 issue under the uncharacteristic title “The Case of the Man who was Wanted”. It was also published in London’s Sunday Dispatch magazine the following January.
Sherlockian Vincent Starrett doubted that the story was written by the elder Doyle and suggested that Adrian was the author.
In September 1945, a letter was received by Hesketh Pearson, a biographer of Sir Arthur. The letter stated, “My pride is not unduly hurt by your remark that ‘The Man who was Wanted’ is certainly not up to scratch for the sting is much mitigated by your going on to remark that it carries the authentic trade–mark! This, I feel, is a great compliment to my one and only effort at plagiarism.”
The letter was written by an architect named Arthur Whitaker who had sent the story to Arthur Conan Doyle in 1911 with a suggestion that they publish it as a joint collaboration. Doyle refused, but sent Whitaker a “cheque for ten guineas” in payment for the story.
After seeing it attributed to Sir Arthur in the Sunday Dispatch, Whitaker wrote a letter to Denis Conan Doyle explaining the true authorship. Denis forwarded the letter to his brother Adrian, who became angry, demanded proof, and threatened legal action.
Whitaker had retained a carbon copy and the Doyles admitted in 1949, after seeing the carbon copy and listening to people who had read it in 1911, that Whitaker was the author.
The story that many people had accepted as the work of Sir Arthur has been published recently as “The Adventure of the Sheffield Banker” in the collection The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
Sir Arthur’s widow Jean chose a spiritualist, the Rev. John Lamond, to write an authorised life of him, Arthur Conan Doyle: A Memoir (John Murray, 1931).
The memoir emphasised his paranormal interests but was not what readers wanted, so after their mother’s death Adrian and Denis grudgingly allowed Hesketh Pearson to write Conan Doyle: His Life and Art (Methuen, 1943).
But Pearson’s book offended Adrian and Denis by saying that the secret of their father’s success was that he was the “common man”. Adrian threatened criminal proceedings against Pearson’s “fakeography”, and wrote an article in protest, and later a book The True Conan Doyle (John Murray, 1945).
According to Lycett, “When the BBC commissioned an anniversary talk from Hesketh Pearson, Adrian announced that if it went ahead it would never broadcast another Sherlock Holmes story. The Corporation caved in.” Lycett states that Pearson had met Arthur Conan Doyle at Francis Galton’s home before the First World War.
Pearson had idolised him from an early age, but was disappointed to find a thick-set broad-faced man with no more mystery than a pumpkin, who fulminated against Sherlock Holmes for preventing him from writing the historical novels he wanted.