Zionsville Resident Doyle Hunts Down Sherlock Holmes Books and Memorabilia • Current Edition

Steven Doyle had a life changing experience in 1974.

“I fell in love with Sherlock Holmes at the age of 14 when a book called ‘The Seven-Per-Cent Solution’ by Nicholas Meyer was published,” Doyle said. “It just started this Sherlock Holmes craze. It turned the Sherlock Holmes hobby into a worldwide phenomenon.

This led the 61-year-old Zionsville resident to collect over 2,000 books and numerous Sherlock Holmes memorabilia from movies and TV shows.

Doyle, a video producer for Purdue University’s College of Agriculture, is a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, which meet once a year in New York. Doyle, who said the group has about 250 living members, joined in 1996 and then became publisher of its quarterly publication, The Baker Street Journal, in 2010.

The Baker Street Irregulars include actors and authors and even NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Doyle also leads a group called The Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis, which meets every six weeks, with meetings often centering on a Holmes story. The annual Sherlock Holmes Film Festival will be held from noon to 5 p.m. on June 25 at the American Legion in Zionsville and will feature, among other things, the film “A Study in Terror.” To sign up for free movies or learn more, email [email protected]

“It’s a lovely group of lots of great friends,” said Marc Lehmann, who has been a member of Illustrious Clients for 13 years. “Steve is the president and he is so knowledgeable. I learn so much.

Doyle, who has lived in Zionsville with his wife, Pam, since 1991, founded and edited a quarterly journal called The Sherlock Holmes Review in 1987, which ran for 10 years.

Doyle co-wrote “Sherlock Holmes For Dummies” with David Crowder in 2010.

Although he has much more valuable items, Doyle said his most treasured books were a Christmas present from his parents when he first became a fan. Doyle had requested the books “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” and “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes” after seeing them at a South Bend mall.

“They are inherently worthless, but if there was a fire in my house, those are the two books I would pick up first,” he said. “It goes to the heart of my idea of ​​the book collection.”

Doyle shared his passion for book collecting as the inaugural speaker on May 21 at Black Dog Books’ lecture series in Zionsville.

“It’s cool to have first editions, signed volumes, but my thing as a book collector is, what’s the book to you?” he said. “These books are priceless to me because of that Christmas morning I received them.”

The first Sherlock Holmes story, “A Study in Scarlet”, was written by Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887.

“One of the first places he sent, he got a response saying, ‘We can’t accept this. The market is flooded with cheap fiction,” said Doyle, who called having the same last name as the legendary author a serendipitous coincidence.

Arthur Conan Doyle eventually sold the story for 25 books, and it was published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual. Today, a copy of Beeton’s Christmas Annual would be worth around $200,000. Doyle has a facsimile of this number that the Baker Street Irregulars produced.

Arthur Conan Doyle eventually began writing short stories about Holmes and sending them to Strand Magazine.

“The editor ran up to the owner and said, ‘He’s the greatest short-story writer since (Edgar Allen) Poe,’ and I think he’s right,” Doyle said. “It was then that Sherlock Holmes became Sherlock Holmes in the public consciousness. People lined up outside the book stalls when the magazine was going to come out.

For years, Doyle hunted for treasures of Sherlock Holmes in second-hand bookstores. Once, while living in Bloomington, one of the bookstore owners knew he was a Holmes fan and asked if he would be interested in a full set of The Strand Magazine.

“I was stunned,” Doyle said. “I said I would, and she said they were in that box. I remember walking slowly towards them like I was walking towards my destiny. The stakes were linked. It’s like finding the Saint Grail.

However, the store owner said she should ask her husband for the price. Doyle said the husband was not as generous as his wife.

“He said $250, and I knew it was the deal of a lifetime, but it was a lot of money for us at the time,” said Doyle, who put $20 aside. and went home to convince his wife that it was worth emptying the bank account to buy it.

Doyle said another great find was a book “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes”, published in 1892, and signed by actor William Gillette, who played Sherlock Holmes on stage and in a silent film, and others. stage performers. Additionally, Doyle has an autographed book of Basil Rathbone’s autobiography. Rathbone portrayed Holmes in 14 films from 1939 to 1946.

Doyle’s memorabilia include movie posters, clothing, and deerstalker hats worn by actors in the movies and TV show.

“I’ve bought things that aren’t very expensive but have value to me, and vice versa,” Doyle said. “I overpaid for things.”

Doyle’s other interests include classic horror and science fiction films. He also plays bass guitar in a classic rock band, The AgTones, which used to perform live, but now only plays in Doyle’s basement.

Steven Doyle discusses book collecting at Black Dog Books in Zionsville. (Photo by Mark Ambrogi)

Special maintenance

Sherlock Holmes collector Steven Doyle talks about sharing an in-person interview with the late British actor Jeremey Brett, who played Sherlock Holmes in 41 episodes of the TV series Granada from 1984 to 1994.

“I had previously done a telephone interview with Jeremy Brett in 1987,” Doyle said. “He was super generous with his time.”

In 1992, Brett was touring America recording promos for PBS stations. So Doyle called to get an interview with Brett for The Sherlock Holmes Review.

Doyle said he played all the cards to get the interview in Chicago. Doyle said Brett gave him and his editing partner, Mark Gagen, far more than the allotted 10-minute time window and clearly appreciated his more probing questions than the other interviewers.

“A woman came to cut us off and he said, ‘Oh, go away, I’m going to see my friends. We’re not done yet,” Doyle said. “We had this 40 minute interview.”

Colin L. Johnson