Monday, January 16, 2017

Mystery Monday: The Hound of the Baskervilles

It's Monday, which means it's time for another...



Every Monday, I'm presenting a new mystery. Some have been solved...some remain unsolved to this day. 

Today's mystery was requested by author (and my mom) Valerie Capps. It's a very literary one, so book lovers will love it. It introduces a little-known mystery involving this book:



The Hound of the Baskervilles was released in 1901, after killing off Sherlock Holmes in The Final Problem. The story was published as a serial in a publication called The Strand Magazine.



Unfortunately, Holmes had a little help coming up with the story--a fact he conveniently left out when he sold it. However, he did acknowledge he had that help in the acknowledgments as a footnote on the first page of Chapter One.



Doyle also paid his friend, Fletcher Robinson, £500, which was a lot of money for the time. Robinson died in 1907 but before his death, he published a series of short stories that listed him as a "joint author with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle" in the Baskerville stories. Doyle did not deny the claim.


Robinson's short story compilation. Photo credit: London: Harper & Brother, June 1905

Later, Doyle claimed credit for the plot and every word of the narrative. However, Robinson's coachman, whose name was Harry Baskerville, said he personally witnessed Robinson writing entire sections of what became the novel.


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

In 2000, an author took the allegations to an all new level. Rodger Garrick-Steele spent 11 years investigating the plagiarism charges and said Doyle plagiarized Robinson's work, had an affair with his wife, and conspired with her to poison her husband (who died at 36).




A court said Garrick-Steele was "totally unreliable" and the claims were dropped. To this day, though, Robinson is given no credit for his help in writing The Hound of the Baskervilles



Do you think £500 and an acknowledgment should have been enough?

Thank you SO much to Jacqui Murray for featuring Piper Morgan on her blog!


40 comments:

  1. Apparently they had a deal of five hundred pounds. Surely Robinson would've pursued Doyle legally otherwise.

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    1. I'm not sure lawsuits were all that common back then. People were supposed to honor their word and be good people. But you're right--during that time I'm sure he found 500 pounds sufficient to buy the rights for whatever he'd contributed.

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  2. I agree with Alex on this. Interesting story about what went on or what was alleged to have gone on, though.

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    1. I once laughed when someone said, "Why don't I give you the ideas, you write the books, and we'll split the profits?" Every author I say that to laughs, as well. There's no shortage of ideas...and even telling me how to plot it isn't as hard work as sitting down and putting those words on the page.

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  3. I never knew that! This is very interesting but it sounds like they did have an agreement just like Alex said but it is a shame that he is still not given credit for one of the most famous stories from Holmes collection

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    1. Especially since he appears to have been an author himself. Of course, Doyle had already made a big name for himself, so the story likely wouldn't have been nearly as successful if he HAD kept the idea to himself and written it.

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  4. I think whether it was enough depends on all the details we don't know.

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    1. That is true. SO much we'll never really know for sure.

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  5. Yes. I think, as Alex pointed out, they had an agreement and it was enough. I've entered into several such agreements in the position of a ghost writer. You sell all rights to your work period. Of course, my stories have never been as successful as Sir Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles. That would certainly make one regret the agreement. What intrigued me about the situation was the accusation of an affair and murder. After reading the account, I think it's possible Mr. Robinson was "done in" by his wife and Sir Doyle knew about it (or was an accomplice) but the charges were never made or proved and it's too late to reopen the investigation. I love a good mystery. Thanks for spotlighting one that piques my curiosity.

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    1. That is true...and he did credit him in the original publication, which is more than we get as ghostwriters! The latter part sounds very dramatic. It would make a good movie...

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  6. Powerful and vain people will do whatever it takes to keep up their illusion. Without a contract asserting Robinson was a co author, he has nothing to stand on.

    From the stories I've heard of Doyle though it wouldn't surprise me if he stiffed his co writer on the credits and hoped to keep him shushed with money.

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    1. I've never heard those stories until now. Sounds like his life might make an interesting story.

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  7. Wow! Sometimes we never know what goes on behind the scenes.

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    1. So often we don't, especially with writers. Even the most famous ones are notoriously private.

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  8. Interesting! I didn't know about this.

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    1. I didn't either until my mom suggested I write about it!

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  9. That's disgusting. I sincerely hope Doyle didn't do any of that.

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    1. I agree. I suspect there's at least some element of truth but whether not it's all true, we'll never know...

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  10. How interesting! I've taught this novella to high school students many times but had never heard of the scandal attached to its origins.

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    1. The behind-the-scenes stories are often more interesting than the fiction!

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  11. Whoa. That's interesting, shocking, and potentially terrible. I don't think that a small acknowledgement would work if he did that much of the writing.
    I wonder: is this similar to ghost-writing of today?

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    1. I think so...although I should add that if I help a friend troubleshoot plot points or even provide an idea, I don't expect acknowledgment for that. That's just part of the writing process. But if I outline the entire book...yeah. The difference is, I wouldn't be outlining an entire book for someone else!

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  12. OMG. I'd never heard that! Fascinating.

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    1. I hadn't either. I learned something new with this one!

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  13. Interesting. I think the person with name recognition would pay off another for their help and the price and acknowledgment seems fair. I'm not so sure about the conspiracy part though. Weird!

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    1. I agree...you'd think there would at least be some sort of acknowledgment later in his career, but I suppose he thought the footnote in the original publication was sufficient.

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  14. That is so interesting! I have never heard of the accusation before and this post prompted me to research a little more. I found this news article on the topic - https://goo.gl/5vY17x I agree, back in those days, law suits were not common at all. The early death of Robinson certainly does make one wonder particularly when taking into account the other inferences against Doyle.

    I think there was definitely an agreement for payment but I also think Robinson should have been given fair credit for his part in the book.

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    1. Yes, people probably didn't think to go get a lawyer involved back then. They settled things one-on-one.

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  15. Has anyone told you how weird it is that you have a bright colorful blog and every Monday you talk about death and stuff? LOL

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    1. I've wondered if anyone thought that! I tend to also tell people that's a weird contrast for me...I write girly books but I'm fascinated with true crime. Although my first MG book was a series about ghost hunters...so I've always loved writing the spookier stuff. Just don't have a publisher for it YET.

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  16. I learned about this because a client had me write something related to this. A very interesting tale indeed. I think the man got his due and accepted not being widely credited. Probably felt he was helping a friend and got well compensated. My opinion.

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  17. Thank you for your kind comment on my blog today, Stephanie. I like how you mingle fantasy, mystery and solid research. Do come back again!

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  18. I love learning about this scandal! I don't know what to think, and there is probably even darker and deeper details we don't know--or will ever know!

    Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and commenting today! Love the look of your blog. Your books look really cute. :)

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  19. I don't know if it was fair. It depends on their agreement... Hmm...

    Thanks for the mention!

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  20. So fascinating! I never knew any of this. The sum seems like a great deal of money for the time but I suppose very small in what the book has brought in over all these years.

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  21. Hi Stephanie - I must admit I'd never heard of this ... but I'm sure lots of plagiarism went on ... often when women had written articles or other works and the men took them on - Ada Lovelace being one. (I gave a talk about her, but didn't put it on the blog - she was Byron's daughter and a computer buff). I suppose Robinson got something from it ... but the interesting fact is where Doyle got the Baskerville name from. Interestingly £500 then was about £43000 today ... if the calculator was right!

    Cheers Hilary

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  22. Your Mystery Mondays are just as fascinating on Tuesdays, Stephanie. An intriguing behind the scenes story about Doyle. Makes one wonder.

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  23. Very interesting! I never knew anything about this! Thanks Stephanie!!

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  24. I only heard about this a year or so ago. It's a compelling mystery.

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  25. I knew about the story but I didn´t know it had such a big story around it as well. How interesting! As a blogger I definitely don´t think a bit of cash and a note are enough. Work needs to be credited!
    xx Lisa | Following Lisa

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