Posts Tagged ‘Arthur Conan Doyle’

“Science of Sherlock Holmes”new updated edition!

February 21, 2017

Fall River Press  has published a new,updated edition with new chapter  of “The Science of Sherlock Holmes: From Baskerville Hall to the Valley of Fear, the Real Forensics Behind the Great Detective’s Greatest Cases… by E.J. Wagner
Average rating 4.5

B&N Cover.jpg

available at Barnes and Noble

This new, updated edition of the Edgar® Award-winning The Science of Sherlock Holmes is as fascinating and eye-opening as any Holmes mystery.  

“Fascinating.” –The Christian Science Monitor
“A double triumph…masterful.” –The Toronto Star
“Utterly compelling.”–Otto Penzler
Take a wild ride by hansom cab along the road paved by Sherlock Holmes—a ride that leads you through medicine, law, pathology, toxicology, anatomy, blood chemistry, and the emergence of forensic science during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Author E.J. Wagner delves into gripping real-life mysteries such as:

How Jack the Ripper’s brutal 1888 murders could have been solved, if detectives had followed the example of the Holmes mystery A Study in Scarlet, published the year before.

How a clever detective proved the butler did it.

Dr. Watson - registered as Wagners' The Game's Afoot - photo by W.R.Wagner

Dr. Watson – registered as Wagners’ The Game’s Afoot – photo by W.R.Wagner

How early forensic science failed in the Lizzie Borden Case

How  Black Dog  ghost tales   are linked to haunting murder case
In examining the Great Detective’s remarkable adventures—along with gripping real-life mysteries such as the disappearance of Dr. George Parkman, wife-killer Kenneth Barlow, Jack the Ripper, and Lizzie Borden—Wagner gives readers a new perspective on both Holmes and modern-day forensic detection.

Fall River Press
Publication date:

Meet the Author

E.J. Wagner is a crime historian, lecturer, teller of suspense stories for adults, and moderator of the annual Forensic Forum at Stony Brook University’s Museum of Long Island Natural Sciences. Her work has been published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, the New York Times,  the Lancet, Smithsonian, among others. E.J’s website is

William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes

January 27, 2015

Here is William Gillette’s short  audio  clip max Sherlock Holmes

If on;y there were more..(sigh)


True crime (and Sherlock Holmes)

December 11, 2011

Former FBI agent and retired criminal justice professor Jim Fisher is also a well-known author. A graduate of Vanderbilt University Law School, he has published nine non-fiction crime books, two of which have been nominated for Edgar awards.

He writes prolifically, engagingly, and sometimes pugnaciously about true crime on his blog at . I don’t always agree with him, but I consistently find his blog absorbing.

He has kindly answered some questions for me at EJdissectingRoom.

Knowing that Jim has written extensively on polygraph “lie detector” examinations, I asked him:

EJ: There have been cases in which individuals holding sensitive positions at both the FBI and the CIA, have passed polygraphs given by highly trained examiners, only to be later exposed as foreign agents.  How difficult is it, in your opinion, to train some one to cheat the test?

Jim Fisher: Errors in the polygraph procedure are almost always human. The instrument itself, assuming the correct questions have been asked and the subject is suitable for the polygraph, rarely fails to detect deception. Polygraph examinees can do things that will make the results inconclusive, but that’s not the same as beating the polygraph.

EJ: Do you believe results of polygraph should be admitted in court?

Jim Fisher: Polygraph results should not be used in court as evidence of a defendant’s guilt. These instruments, however, are valuable investigative tools and should be used in that context. . . .

I do not believe that criminal suspects should be required by law to take a polygraph. The polygraph technique will not work unless the test is voluntary.

In his blog, Jim has also commented on crime laboratory problems.

EJ: Shortage of forensic pathologists, adequately funded crime labs, and lack of uniform standards in the forensic sciences present huge problems. What are your thoughts on improving this situation?

Jim Fisher: The shortage of forensic pathologists is a problem that has resisted solutions for decades and I don’t see that changing. Crime labs, due to the economy, will remain under-funded. Unless the federal government gets involved, I don’t see uniformity in the forensic services.

Writing about the recent film biography of J. Edgar Hoover, Jim describes his own stint with the FBI in less than happy terms. . . .

EJ: In your blog discussion of your time in J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, you mentioned that leaving the organization felt “like getting out of prison.”  Given the extremely controlling atmosphere under Hoover’s administration, what made many good people willing to submit to the regimen?

Jim Fisher: Out of my FBI training class of 50 agents in 1966, all but thirteen stayed in the bureau until retirement. All of the 13 agents who left before then had law degrees. Agents put up with J. Edgar Hoover because they could retire at age 50 with good benefits.

Aware that Jim has written on the Lizzie Borden unpleasantness and other historical classics, I asked:

EJ: Of the myriad “Crimes of the last Century” which do you find most intriguing? Why?

Jim Fisher: My favorite 20th Century “crimes of the century” are: The Lindbergh kidnapping (1932-1936); The Sacco and Vanzetti Case (1991-1927) and the Hall-Mills Case (1926). I like cases that hinge on forensic science and the interpretation of physical evidence.

[These are all American cases.

In March of 1932 the twenty month old son of aviation hero Charles Lindbergh was snatched from the nursery at the family home in New Jersey. The child’s body was found in a wooded area two months later.  Extensive physical evidence heavily implicated Bruno Richard Hauptman , who was convicted and executed for the crime.

Sacco and Vanzetti involved a double shooting murder in Massachusetts for which Italian immigrants Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were executed in August of 1927. The case had political overtones and attracted international attention.

The atmospheric Hall-Mills Case remains officially unsolved. The bodies of a minister and his choir singer lover were discovered supine under a crab apple tree on Lover’s Lane in New Brunswick, New Jersey in September of 1922.  Love letters from the murdered woman to the minister were scattered about the crime scene.  The resulting investigation involved, among other things, the testimony of a former maid in the minister’s household, that of a lady who raised hogs and was known therefore as “The Pig Woman” and fingerprint evidence.  The betrayed widow of the minister and her two brothers were tried for the murders in 1926 but acquitted.

– EJDissectingRoom]

Sherlock Holmes was a collector of criminal history and advises in The Valley of Fear “. . . to shut yourself up for three months and read twelve hours a day at the annals of crime.”

EJ: Do you agree with Mr. Holmes that the study of old cases is of value to modern investigators?

Jim Fisher: I discovered the works of Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes) in adulthood….  Sherlock Holmes was right. To know the future of crime you must know it’s history. Studying old cases and how they were solved or bungled is an excellent teaching tool.

[The last word belongs to Mr. Holmes (in The Valley of Fear):

“Everything comes in circles . . . The old wheel turns, and the same spoke comes up. It’s all been done before, and will be again.”  – EJDissectingRoom]

You can visit Jim’s intriguing crime blog at

Still pursuing verity,

E. J. Wagner

BBC Radio Ulster interview

June 2, 2010

I was interviewed by BBC Radio Ulster’s “resident sleuth” David Booth via link to the BBC Manhattan studio.  Hear the interview, which was broadcast on 22 May 2010 to mark Arthur Conan Doyle’s 151st birthday.

Science of Sherlock Holmes and BBC

May 29, 2010

I did an interview for BBC about my book, The Science of  Sherlock Holmes, which was arranged the very same day it was taped. Although BBC promised to tell me time of broadcast, they didn’t, and I just found it via a Twitter post. The link is below.

The producer also promised me a tape so I could post in on my site-if it ever arrives, I shall do so.  In the meantime, here’s is the short-lived link…

Subject: BBC iPlayer Console – What’s Next: 22/05/2010
Program titled “What’s Next” hosted by Natasha Sayee and Newton Emerson.

starting at 6 minutes and 10 seconds into the program, lasting 4 minutes and 40 seconds
originally broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster on Saturday 22 May 2010
will be available on-line for only two more days.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s Birthday, and Black Dogs

October 26, 2009

An Appreciation

One hundred and fifty years ago, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the most loved and best known detective figure of all time, was born in a suburb of Edinburgh Scotland. In excited celebration of this event, gatherings of all kinds—dinners, symposiums, exhibitions, re-enactments and entertainments—have taken place throughout 2009. In the UK, Conan Doyle’s innovative science fiction novel The Lost World has been part of the 2009 Great Reading Adventure, sponsored by Bristol Cultural Development Partnership. Special editions have been published, including a children’s version. Everyone in the UK was urged to read Conan Doyle in 2009.

Last July, the University of Hull, in Britain, sponsored a conference on Doyle and Holmes. In India, a film featuring the character of Holmes is being shot—the role played by a British diplomat. In the US, Harvard’s Houghton Library hosted a symposium to honor the author, coinciding with the opening of a major exhibition at Houghton: “Ever Westward: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in American Culture.”

In Scotland, the ancient and dying sycamore tree under which Conan Doyle played as a child was chosen for a special honor. Its wood was used to make a violin styled after the one played by Sherlock Holmes, and the tree’s stump carved into a Holmes memorial.

It is true that in the course of writing fifty-six stories and four novels about the Great Detective, Conan Doyle developed a weary resentment towards his obsessively observant hero, referring to him at one point as “a monstrous growth.”  But the public was enamored, and Conan Doyle’s effort to annihilate Holmes by fictionally flinging him and his nemesis, the arch-criminal Moriarty, to their deaths at Reichenbach Falls, met with such resistance that the author resurrected the pair. Conan Doyle, the physician turned author, is eternally caught in the web of his own magic.

Although numerous works on a variety of subjects flowed from his pen—science fiction, travel, memoir, passionate spiritualism—Sherlock Holmes is the figure on which Conan Doyle’s enduring fame overwhelmingly rests. The author’s ability to weave together folklore and science, logic and superstition—to distract the reader for instance, in The Hound of the Baskervilles with a haunting tale of a ghostly Black Dog while leading to a believable realistic ending—set the standard for great mystery writing.

The acerbic, logical Holmes, his affable companion, Watson, and the rooms in Baker Street, form an indelible part of our culture. From school kids reading the tales late at night when they are supposed to be asleep, to mature Sherlockians revisiting the adventures for the hundredth time, we all treasure the literary hearth ACD bequeathed us.


Dr. Watson - registered as Wagners' The Game's Afoot - photo by W.R.Wagner

Note: Most likely it was Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles that started my long fascination with black dogs. In some folk traditions they are considered to bring good fortune, in others they are believed to be harbingers of disaster and death. I avidly collect these tales. (For more about mythical Black Dogs, such as Old Shuck and the Galleytrot, as well as the 1945 Black Dog Murder in Lower Quinton, see chapter 2 of The Science of Sherlock Holmes.)  My family and I happily share our lives with black dogs, our current Resident Labrador Retriever being ”Dr. Watson.”  But years before he arrived, there were others. . . .