The most famous fictional detective in the world is Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. However, Doyle was, at best, ambivalent about his immensely successful literary creation and, at worst, resentful that his more "serious" fiction was relatively ignored. Born in Edinburgh, Doyle studied medicine from 1876 to 1881 and received his M.D. in 1885. He worked as a military physician in South Africa during the Boer War and was knighted in 1902 for his exceptional service. Doyle was drawn to writing at an early age. Although he attempted to enter private practice in Southsea, Portsmouth, in 1882, he soon turned to writing in his spare time; it eventually became his profession. As a Liberal Unionist, Doyle ran, unsuccessfully, for Parliament in 1903. During his later years, Doyle became an avowed spiritualist. Doyle sold his first story, "The Mystery of the Sasassa Valley," to Chambers' Journal in 1879. When Doyle published the novel, A Study in Scarlet in 1887, Sherlock Holmes was introduced to an avid public. Doyle is reputed to have used one of his medical professors, Dr. Joseph Bell, as a model for Holmes's character. Eventually, Doyle wrote three additional Holmes novels and five collections of Holmes short stories. A brilliant, though somewhat eccentric, detective, Holmes employs scientific methods of observation and deduction to solve the mysteries that he investigates. Although an "amateur" private detective, he is frequently called upon by Scotland Yard for assistance. Holmes's assistant, the faithful Dr. Watson, provides a striking contrast to Holmes's brilliant intellect and, in Doyle's day at least, serves as a character with whom the reader can readily identify. Having tired of Holmes's popularity, Doyle even tried to kill the great detective in "The Final Problem" but was forced by an outraged public to resurrect him in 1903. Although Holmes remained Doyle's most popular literary creation, Doyle wrote prolifically in other genres, including historical adventure, science fiction, and supernatural fiction. Despite Doyle's sometimes careless writing, he was a superb storyteller. His great skill as a popular author lay in his technique of involving readers in his highly entertaining adventures.
Author George MacDonald Fraser was born April 2, 1925 in Carlisle. He was refused entrance to the medical faculty of Glasgow University, so he joined the army in 1943. He served as an infantryman with the 17th Indian Division of the XIVth Army in Burma, a lance corporal and was commissioned in the Gordon Highlanders. After the war, he became a sports reporter with the Carlisle Journal; and during this time, he met and married Kathleen Hetherington, a reporter from another paper. He worked as a reporter and sub-editor on the Cumberland News and then moved to Glasgow, in 1953, where he worked at the Glasgow Herald as a features editor and deputy editor. Fraser's first novel was "Flashman" (1969), which was followed by nine sequels, so far, that deal with different venues of the 19th century ranging from Russia, Borneo and China to the Great Plains of the America West. Some of the other titles in the Flashman Papers are "Royal Flash" (1970), "Flashman in the Great Game" (1975), "Flashman and the Redskins" (1982), and "Flashman and the Angel of the Lord" (1994). Some of his non-fiction work includes "The Steel Bonnets" (1971), which is a factual study of the Anglo-Scottish border thieves in the seventeenth century, and "Quartered Safe Out Here" (1992). Fraser has also written a number of screenplays that include "The Three Musketeers" (1973), "Royal Flash" (1975), "Octopussy" (1983), and "Return of the Musketeers" (1989). He has also written a series of short stories about Private McAuslan whose titles include "The General Danced at Dawn" (1970), "McAuslan in the Rough" (1974), and "The Sheik and the Dustbin and other McAuslan Stories" (1988). He died of cancer on January 2, 2008.