The stories behind the world’s favourite books

We’ve had it for years, but I only just discovered the book ‘Behind the Bestsellers this week. It’s a fascinating collection of the stories behind the stories – anecdotes and experiences that led to the creation of some of literature’s most famous places, characters and books.

Did you know that the tales that good friend Bertram Russel told Arthur Conan Doyle about ghostly demon dogs that roamed Dartmoor, were the basis for the creative return of Conan Doyle’s most famous character? Sherlock Holmes had been killed off in The Final Problem  eight years earlier, but returned in The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Orwell’s 1984was a culmination of his life’s political beliefs and experiences. His work with the Indian Imperial police in Burma, his involvement with the Spanish Worker’s Party during their Civil War and producing BBC wartime propaganda moulded his hatred of ‘the man’ with it’s bureaucratic secrecy and hypocrisy.

Dan Brown’s father was a mathematician, creating codes, puzzles and cryptic clues as elaborate treasure hunts for his children on their birthdays and at Christmas. His college years in New England, surrounded by Masonic Lodges and ‘Founding Father’ clubs, piqued an interest in secret societies, and an incident at school when Secret Service agents arrived to detain a student culminated in his fascination of  government agencies.  All three put together form the basis of The Da Vinci Code.

I could go on all day, there’s the background to 50 books listed!

Did You Know…About Professor Moriarty?

Professor James Moriarty as illustration by Sidney Paget which accompanied the original publication of "The Final Problem".

The forthcoming film Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows will see the great detective face off against the evil Professor James Moriarty, but did you know that although he is often presented as Sherlock Holmes arch-nemesis, Moriarty and Holmes only ever encountered one another in a single short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?

Entitled The Final Problem, the story has Holmes revealing that the professor (whom Holmes admits is his intellectual equal) sits at the centre of London’s underworld, like a spider in a vast web. Holmes considers the eventual capture of Moriarty and dismantling of his network to be the single greatest moment of his career. The two finally face off in a duel to the death atop Reichenbach Falls.

Moriarty did go on to appear in one other story, The Valley of Fear which although written after The Final Problem, actually takes place before it. However, the Professor and Holmes do not meet during the story.

Holmes does make reference to Moriarty in five other stories: The Empty House (the immediate sequel to The Final Problem), The Norwood Builder, The Missing Three-Quarter, The Illustrious Client, and His Last Bow, but they only ever encountered one another directly the one time.

With the adaption of the Holmes stories to feature film and television, many writer/director/producers have chosen to use Moriarty as the ongoing villain or a threat working in the shadows behind the main mystery, much as the early James Bond films made use of SPECTRE and its leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld as ongoing villians, even though the character and organization only appear in three and four books respectively.

The library has the complete adventures of Sherlock Holmes as well as DVDs and a new novel featuring Moriarty and his right hand man, Colonel Sebastian Moran as the main characters.