The Narrative of John Smith
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Before there was the astute detective Sherlock Holmes and his capable compatriot Watson, there was the opinionated Everyman John Smith. In 1883, when he was just twenty-three, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote The Narrative of John Smith while he was living in Portsmouth and struggling to establish himself as both a doctor and a writer. He had already succeeded in having a number of short stories published in leading magazines of the day, such as Blackwood’s, All the Year Round, London Society, and the Boy’s Own Paper—but as was the accepted practice of literary journals of the time, his stories had been published anonymously. Thus, Conan Doyle knew that in order to truly establish his name as a writer, he would have to write a novel. That novel — the first he ever wrote and only now published for the first time — is The Narrative of John Smith. Many of the themes and stylistic tropes of his later writing, including his first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet—published...