Margalit Fox: Conan Doyle for the Defense (A Temple Beth Israel Event)

Temple Beth Israel's Sunday Morning Seminar welcomes Margalit Fox, author of Conan Doyle for the Defense: The True Story of a Sensational British Murder, a Quest for Justice, and the World’s Most Famous Detective Writer. 

About the Book:

In 1893, the world was shocked to learn of the death of one of its heroes: Detec­tive Sher­lock Holmes had fall­en off of a cliff while bat­tling his arch neme­sis, Pro­fes­sor Mori­ar­ty. Holmes’s cre­ator, Arthur Conan Doyle, had tired of the char­ac­ter, and killed him off in the sto­ry ​“The Final Prob­lem.” His death was met with such wide­spread back­lash, how­ev­er, that Doyle revived him. The pub­lic’s thirst to read about the bril­liant British detec­tive and his adven­tures has bare­ly waned since. In this cap­ti­vat­ing tale, Fox traces the devel­op­ment of Doyle’s career — includ­ing the fact that once his lit­er­ary cre­ation became so famous, requests flood­ed in for him to solve actu­al mys­ter­ies — through his efforts on behalf of Slater. In a par­tic­u­lar­ly cin­e­mat­ic instance, a let­ter smug­gled out of prison in a fake tooth seals Slater’s free­dom. Fox’s writ­ing, clear­ly honed by her years writ­ing obit­u­ar­ies, effort­less­ly bal­ances expert­ly-researched his­tor­i­cal and archival data with the pathos and emo­tion­al nuance of any great dra­ma. Like a clas­sic Holmes yarn, Conan Doyle for the Defense is full of shady under­world char­ac­ters, thiev­ery, inept police offi­cers, and a mys­tery whose his­tor­i­cal set­ting belies its deep rel­e­vance to our own era.

"Gripping . . . The book works on two levels, much like a good Holmes case. First, it is a fluid story of a crime. . . . Second, and more pertinently, it is a deeper story of how prejudice against a class of people, the covering up of sloppy police work and a poisonous political atmosphere can doom an innocent. We should all heed Holmes's salutary lesson: rationally follow the facts to find the truth." --Time

"Splendid . . . The ingredients are too good to pass up: a famous detective novelist actually playing detective, a man serving time for a murder he did not commit, and a criminal justice system slowly, and reluctantly, reckoning with the advent of forensic science." --Sarah Weinman, The New Republic

About the Author:

A retired senior writer at The New York Times, Mar­galit Fox is con­sid­ered one the fore­most explana­to­ry writ­ers and lit­er­ary styl­ists in Amer­i­can jour­nal­ism. As a long­time mem­ber of the newspaper’s cel­e­brat­ed Obit­u­ary News Depart­ment, she has writ­ten the front-page pub­lic send­offs of some of the lead­ing cul­tur­al fig­ures of our age. (Conan Doyle for the Defense is in many ways a fond belat­ed obit­u­ary — for the long-over­looked Oscar Slater, an immi­grant Every­man treat­ed inex­cus­ably by his­to­ry.) Fox’s pre­vi­ous book, The Rid­dle of the Labyrinth, won the William Saroy­an Prize for Inter­na­tion­al Writ­ing. She lives in Man­hat­tan with her hus­band, the writer and crit­ic George Robinson.

Event date: 

Sunday, February 23, 2020 - 10:00am to 11:30am

Event address: 

Temple Beth Israel
3601 W. Dempster Street
Skokie, IL 60076
Conan Doyle for the Defense: How Sherlock Holmes's Creator Turned Real-Life Detective and Freed a Man Wrongly  Imprisoned for Murder Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399589478
Availability: On Our Shelves Now--Subject to Availability
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - June 25th, 2019

“A wonderfully vivid portrait of the man behind Sherlock Holmes . . . Like all the best historical true crime books, it’s about so much more than crime.”—Tana French, author of In the Woods
A sensational Edwardian murder. A scandalous wrongful conviction. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to the rescue—a true story.