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Adventures in Bookland: The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle

So, you’re the writer who has created the single most popular and widely recognised character in literary history and – you’re thoroughly sick of your creation. You’ve killed him off, sending him over Reichenbach Falls, and still he stubbornly refuses to properly die: a Hollywood villain before films had even been invented. So what do you do now? If you’re Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, you set out to create another character as memorable, as distinctive and as iconic as Sherlock Holmes.

Professor Challenger. A genius.  Check. Acerbic. Check. Suffers fools badly. Check.

What was that name again?

Yes, it’s true, Conan Doyle’s new Sherlock wasn’t, on the surface, that different from the old Sherlock. But Professor Challenger never won over an audience in the same way as the resident of 221B Baker Street did. In part, that’s because Challenger is simply a boor, an intelligent one but a boor and a bully, whereas Holmes is never boring and only occasionally bullying, and that mostly to Dr Watson. But that, of course, is the second part of the equation. As with Holmes, the story is told from the viewpoint of the sidekick, a young journalist called Malone (Anglo-Irish if I remember correctly).

With Holmes and Watson, Watson is as important as Holmes. With Challenger and Malone, Malone is in many ways the more complete character – Challenger is a caricature of Holmes – but Watson on his own can’t sustain a series, and neither can Malone.

Nonetheless, the story is entertaining; an enjoyable breeze through early-20th century Edwardian life transplanted to South American jungles.

 

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