‘Conan Doyle for the Defense’ by Margalit Fox- Book Review

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 by Margalit Fox

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Sometimes, life is stranger than fiction, imitating art, and vice versa. Picture this. A man on losing streaks decides his last bet on life in the New World. But, instead, he finds on arrival himself surrounded by the grim-faced henchmen of law with the gray eyes scanning the debonair foreigner’s appearance, measuring his moral value, judging his life at face value. The compass of Goddess Fortuna’s Wheel indicates the downfall of Oscar Slater in the direction of HM Prison Peterhead in Scotland. But, even though fortune’s malice has thrown Slater overboard, it certainly has not deprived him of a lifeboat in the person of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The case of Oscar Slater is often dubbed a sensational Edwardian murder mystery characterized by a scandalous wrongful conviction by the stupendousness of a miscarriage of justice in the history of any subject related from social justice to penal system, from police investigation procedures to forensic science. It follows from a death of a wealthy elderly woman brutally assaulted in her Glasgow home in 1908 when the Victorian prejudice against poor immigrants and foreigners, especially Jewish extraction, was PC all over on the isles. Slater being a secular German Jew with dark eyes and hair contrasted with the fairness of angelic British blonde, the blue-eyed ideal figure was the poster man of a criminal among the police and became their convenient suspect without due diligence and beyond a reasonable doubt. The Scottish police applied none of the evidentiary truth to the Slater case. On the contrary, they projected all of prejudice and complacency into the person of Slater, who was a sort of likable roguish streetwise swinger whose attractive suaveness and sleekness are reminded of Puck in a Midsummer Night’s Dream. But Arthur Conan Doyle s helped Slater set free after twenty years of hard labor at the prison for the crime he had not committed. Suppose a true writer sees the world’s corruption at its heart and stands furious with people instead of grandstanding with rants and slurs. In that case, Conan Doyle stands along with Voltaire, George Orwell, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in the pantheon of the great writers who lived in the crowd of life.

Although Conan Doyle himself could not entirely be free from the conventional preconception about lower-class foreign immigrants and the jews, his integrity and charity exceeded the flaws. They changed the fate of the wrongly convicted man, which should be highly esteemed for universal recognition of all times. In the particular alchemy of literature as connecting the reader to the universal empathy, Doyle’s support of Slater’s innocence seems particularly conspicuous in the current humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. The British general whose Toyota Jeep took up the already limited space could have held more Afghan evacuees in an airplane. Also, the former British Royal Marine chose to take 200 dogs and cats from the shelter with him over his Afghan workers and their families. But that’s not the end. The former Afghan employees of the British Embassy in Kabul are still clinging onto a thin ring of hope that their British ambassador boss for whom they had worked even during the Covid-19 pandemic scare would come to rescue. Would there be another Arthur Conan Doyle who would act on his principle of morality in the spirit of humanity who regard the lives of the oppressed Afghans as equally valuable as their own or similar kinds- that is, white and Christians?

My reference of Doyle’s involvement in the Slater case to current Afghanistan and refugee situations may seem a bit of a stretch with over-flowing maudlin sentimentalism. But I think Doyle’s determination to help Slater cause following the case of George Edalji, another miscarriage of justice based on racial discrimination, stems from his good natural good-heartedness aided by the brilliant mind searching for truth. It is a triumph of good over evil in the semblance of law and order. Unfortunately, I have a hard time finding a famous writer or poet who actively puts thinking into action, just as Doyle, Voltaire, Dickens, and Sand, whose brilliance of the minds resembled the magnificence of the Sun benefitting the life on earth. Where are such great writers now?



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gentle giant

unnamed

 

A gentle giant in the maze of darkness

Sees the darkest corruption of the heart

alloyed in the putrid puss of proud violence

Writhing his pulsation of life like a serpent

Twisting the veins that carry life to his breath

Pounding the dome of his sovereign palace

In a morbid frisson of the ecstatic dance of death

Amid the cries of the man in a maze of disgrace

Unarmored, unguarded, unprotected, unheard

As the rampant madness of murder with passion

Possesses the man with the corrupt heart blinded

By outgrown white heat of hatred with unreason.

 

P.S.: It would have been my first day of returning to the office after the partial end of stay-home order in California had my brother not told me of a civil unrest situation in Downtown LA where my job was located; the subway station I always use was closed, and a curfew would be enforced in LA Counties starting from 6:00 PM, which would affect my returning home via trains.

Behind all this commotion lies another intermittently continuous police brutality exercised against the socially disenfranchised or marginalized – or to put it more blatantly –  invisible, and therefore ignorable. The demonstrations were egged on by the inhumanly aggravated handling by the police of George Floyd, a former promising college basketball student who had eked out living by working as a security guard until he was laid off due to Covid-19 lockdown.

I don’t care what Floyd’s past sins are. I don’t need to know his character assessment to reason the initiation of Floyd’s arrestment by the police in the first place. What I see from the video of his undignified death posted on the New York Times attests to the manifestation of how prejudice aided by the unbridled zealous passion of the heated moment can lead to the destruction of humanity. The more I watch the tragedy, the more I see the man’s pathos and the oppressor’s inhumanity.  How could you do that? This alone matters to me. Hence this poem is my elegy to Mr. Floyd. 

To readers

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Cat in a hat La Vincent Van Gogh by Olga Koval

Normally, I don’t post a crude litany of woes or untamed outcry of malaise because that’s not what I want my blog to be filled with. However, today is an exception to the rule because for the last couple of days the receptions to which my published posts have been particularly detrimental to my disposition and averse to my sensitivity. Well, I don’t think it really matters to any of you out there who happens to stumble into my hermit blog, but then I don’t really care what you think about it because it’s my sovereign blog, which is my only safe niche, an elbow room amidst this crazy existential daily life constantly threatening my sanity, bullying my sensitivity, knowing that I am distinct for that “Positive Thinking in Thick Skin” facade.

First of all, I don’t understand how people can follow a blog without liking any of my posts. Are they fishing in for their potential followers? I have noticed so many of them out there without liking any of my posts and following my blog, which I find it very insulting and odd. I am not here to foster an online relationship with anyone out there but to practice my writing skills as well as to use it as my creative, intellectual outlets yearning to surface from within because I can’t just will out what I feel and think without letting it out. Besides, I don’t want my existence to disappear into oblivion, which is a great injustice to my sovereign freedom of expression. That said, I don’t want to build up popularity by getting mindless followers either haughtily not bothering to like my writing or stopping to like it for whatever reasons. That breaks my heart to the extent to which it can’t be sawed up or replaced by a steel heart. It’s imbecility to have followers who are unappreciative of what I write.

Secondly, to pour hot lead into my already wide-open gap of the wounded heart and soul, I saw the stats that although people read my last post about 6 movies from the 60s celebration of National Classic Movie Day yesterday and today, only four people voted for likes! Such disastrous comeuppance made me so disappointed and disheartened that I could not but think that writing could also be a Modus Operandi of detecting all about yourself from the way you looked to where you were from. This betrayed my primal idea about being capable of metamorphosis and travel to become all that I want to be, to do, and to go under the protection of faceless stealth. Faceless because your face could be a hindrance to expressing your self in a true glass of the mind. In order to ascertain the cause of such an outrageously heartbreaking result of the last post, I have read my post over and over again, but there appears to be no sophomorically pesky solecism whatsoever.  Further to the attempts, I visited the blogs of others about the same subject, but none of them is hard to regard it as a magnum opus! Do they think my post is inaptly conceived and professionally benighted or just plain average? And they even had comments from their members of the coterie eulogizing how great their picks were! Seeing all of this in my very eyes, I could not help agreeing with Edgar Allan Poe criticizing a clique formed among the New York Literati that excluded any writer outside the league of their own. I don’t think any of them appreciates my writing, and it makes me feel like such a fool that from now onwards, I vow that I will NOT volunteer to do any contributory writing unless I am asked to.

Thus I have reorganized a list of followers because I think it necessary for me to do so for the love of my broken heart and wounded soul. I see writings of others, which are not tours de force but filled with a rhapsody of why their inane posts are great. Jealousy? What hokum! It’s such amusement to see even writings can become a tool for attracting strangers as a social get-together platform. Here I am, a hobbyist amateur writer working 9 to 6 to pay bills and rents but whose literary ambition is as great as Ben Jonson and Charlotte Bronte. Charlotte Bronte had been rejected to have her work published many times and was of the same disposition as I am. (Yes, I am closer to her in temperament and sensitivity than any of you out there who likes to think you are or wants to think you are when you are not!). She and I are in agreement in thinking that any appreciation from a considerate and intelligent reader for our writings is highly appropriate and proper as decorum to the author. You know what I mean?