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The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of…

The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness and Obsession (2010)

by David Grann

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
A collection of Grann's investigative pieces, on subjects ranging from the mysterious death of a Sherlock Holmes enthusiast to the decaying career of a former baseball star. There's no connecting thread, so although the articles themselves seem well-researched and pretty well-written, I wasn't wowed by this collection. It's not a book; it's just a bunch of his articles stuffed together so he can earn money on them a second time. Still, the subjects are often fascinating, so it's worth a single read. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
This fascinating collection of articles poking into strange and sometimes very dark corners of life is some of the best, most compelling non-fiction I've read in quite a while, and I think the only way to give any sense of it all is to describe what the individual pieces are about. So here's what they're about:

* The death of one of the world's leading Sherlock Holmes experts, under circumstances so bizarre and mysterious they seem like they belong more in a Holmes story than they do in real life.

* A man who was convinced of setting a fire that killed his three small children, and whose case seems absolutely open and shut until you learn some truly horrifying things about arson investigation.

* The exploits of an adult man who repeatedly pretended to be a teenage boy, eventually taking on the identity of a child who had been reported missing years earlier and living with his family for months.

* A firefighter suffering from amnesia after being buried under rubble during 9/11 and haunted by the question of whether or not be behaved courageously.

* A marine biologist in a desperate, obsessive search for a live giant squid.

* The "sandhogs" of New York City who are slowly, laboriously digging a new tunnel through which to channel the city's water supply. It's taking decades, and meanwhile... Well, let's just say that learning about the state of the city's current water supply infrastructure has made me glad I don't live in NYC.

* An elderly bank robber who apparently could not bring himself to retire from the stickup biz.

* A once-great baseball player who refuses to abandon the game, or his hope of returning to the majors, even though his career has fallen as far as it is possible to go.

* The Aryan Brotherhood prison gang and the truly horrifying level of organized violence they've managed to perpetrate from behind bars.

* The astonishing levels of Mafia influence in Youngstown, Ohio, and the career of a transparently corrupt politician that many people there somehow managed to view as a hero.

* A former Haitian warlord with a job selling real estate in Queens, much to the distress of his neighbors, many of whom fled Haiti because of him in the first place.

Somehow, Grann, in his clean, detached journalistic style, makes most of that even more interesting than it sounds. Which is kind of impressive. ( )
1 vote bragan | Dec 15, 2015 |
Very interesting collection of essays about true-life mysteries, oddities, and horrors. ( )
  Scarchin | Nov 12, 2013 |
Collection of essays that are increasingly less to do with Sherlock Holmes as the book goes on -- the title is simply to draw people interested in Sherlock Holmes-ian mysteries, I think. There's some interesting cases here, though they don't all seem to share much of a theme. Mostly reminds me that people are very odd, sometimes. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
Grann's the author of [b:The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon,|3398625|The Lost City of Z A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon|David Grann|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1255578330s/3398625.jpg|3438638] and he's super fun to read. This is a collection of essays, mostly from the New Yorker, about...well, loosely about people who are obsessed with things. The first essay's about the world's foremost expert on Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes, who was found dead under suspicious circumstances while in the midst of a legal fight with Conan Doyle's estate - a fight with millions of dollars at stake. The case has never been solved. That's pretty interesting, right? That totally happened, too; this is non-fiction.

And many of the essays are just as interesting. Not all, but enough to make this worth checking out. Personally, I'd check out Lost City first; generally I prefer books about one thing to collections of essays. I gave Lost City 5 stars, and Devil & Sherlock Holmes 4. But yeah, this is cool stuff. ( )
  AlCracka | Apr 2, 2013 |
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Deakins, MarkNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Reporting, like detective work, is a process of elimination. (Introduction)
Richard Lancelyn Green, the world's foremost expert on Sherlock Holmes, believed that he had finally solved the case of the missing papers.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385517920, Hardcover)

Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with David Grann

We had the opportunity to chat with David Grann about his bestselling debut, The Lost City of Z, and his second book of nonfiction, The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession. Read on to find out what David thinks about the "infinitely strange" business of writing nonfiction.

Amazon.com: Have you stayed in touch with any of the individuals you wrote about in The Devil and Sherlock Holmes?

David Grann: In the course of researching the book, I got to know an array of astonishing characters. They include a marine biologist named Steve O’Shea who was trying to be the first person to ever to capture a giant squid and grow it in captivity; sandhogs digging an intricate maze of tunnels hundreds of feet beneath the streets of New York City; a Polish detective investigating whether an author planted clues to an actual murder in his postmodern novel; a fireman who suffered amnesia on 9/11 and is trying to piece together what happened to him on that tragic day; a baseball icon; cold killers; an imposter; and a school teacher, Elizabeth Gilbert, who attempted to prove that a man about to be executed for a deadly fire was really innocent. One of the strange things about reporting is that you spend a lot of time with someone and then resume your separate lives. But I occasionally hear from several of the characters in the stories. Gilbert, who had been paralyzed from the neck down in a car accident, recently called to tell me that after more than five years of rehabilitation she had begun to take steps with the aid of a walker. "I made it eighty yards," she said. "Almost a football field."

Amazon.com: Given the opportunity, are there any stories you would like to revisit in the future?

David Grann: Most of the pieces hopefully capture the essence of a story and don’t need elaboration. But as I learned from the strange and unexpected twists in these true tales, there is always a possibility that something new and startling may occur that would draw me back in.

Amazon.com: As a journalist, how does the experience of writing essays differ from writing a longer work like The Lost City of Z?

David Grann: It’s very different. With a book, you can follow many different characters and paths. With essays, you have to keep the lens tightly focused. I really believe that some stories need to be told in longer narrative form, and others, like the dozen in The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, work ideally as shorter pieces.

Amazon.com: Much of your writing revolves around individuals with unusually strong obsessions. The people you write about have focused their lives on everything from searching for giant squid to disbanding the most powerful gang in the U.S. prison system. Are there any characteristics that these individuals share?

David Grann: Yes, as you mention, many of the characters are compelled by an obsession, even if the object of their obsession is very different. The other thing that many of them share is a curiosity and a hunger to explain, like Sherlock Holmes, the world around them--whether it be the unexplored sea, an underground empire, a secret prison gang, or a mysterious murder.

Amazon.com: Many of these stories are rooted in ambiguous circumstances. Did your initial impressions change during the course of researching these people and events?

David Grann: Definitely. When I began investigating these stories, I knew almost nothing about them. Many originated from little more than a tantalizing hint: a tip from a friend, a reference buried in a news brief. And so I hope that I take the reader on the same kind of journey that I experienced--a journey that often leads to conclusions that I never imagined.

Amazon.com: Many of the stories in The Devil and Sherlock Holmes have a "stranger-than-fiction" quality to them. Have you ever considered trying your hand at fiction, or is the real world strange enough for you?

David Grann: When I first started out as a writer, I had aspirations of becoming a novelist, but I could never invent compelling enough characters or plots. What’s wonderful about nonfiction is I get to meet these incredible characters--stick up men, sandhogs, prison escape artists, imposters, squid hunters, mobsters, FBI agents--and they allow me to spend time with them and document their private thoughts. If these dozen stories in the collection taught me anything, it is that life, to borrow a phrase from Sherlock Holmes, "is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent."

(Photo © Matt Richman)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:29 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Collection of the journalist's articles previously published in various periodicals.Whether he's reporting on the infiltration of the murderous Aryan Brotherhood into the U.S. prison system, tracking down a con artist in Europe, or riding with a scientist hunting the elusive giant squid, David Grann revels in telling stories that explore the nature of obsession. Each of the stories in this collection reveals a hidden and often dangerous world, pivoting around the gravitational pull of obsession and the captivating personalities of those caught in its grip. There is the world's foremost expert on Sherlock Holmes, found dead in mysterious circumstances; an arson sleuth trying to prove that a man about to be executed is innocent; and sandhogs racing to complete the dangerous job of building New York City's water tunnels before the old system collapses. Throughout, Grann's accounts display the power--and often the willful perversity--of the human spirit, a mosaic of ambition, madness, passion, and folly.--From publisher description.… (more)

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