I am writing to draw your attention to, and express my outrage at, a gross misstatement of fact, and equally gross canard, contained in the Sept. 12 edition of The Times Book Review.
The offensive items occurred in the opening paragraph of Charles Champlin's "Sleuths, Shamuses and Sidekicks," in which the author questions:
"I wonder as well whether Sir Arthur Conan Doyle realized, when he invented Dr. John Watson as sidekick and sounding board for Sherlock Holmes, what an inundation of sidekicks would follow--most, although not all of them, as slow of comprehension as Watson himself." (Emphasis added).
I am \o7 astonished\f7 that Champlin could make these statements in the first instance, and that they could survive your editorial scrutiny having been made. As to Doyle's alleged "invention" of Dr. John H. Watson, it is the firm belief of all \o7 reasonable\f7 persons that, rather than mere literary "characters," Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes were real people (certainly as "real" as any modern-day celebrity, for example, Michael Jackson).
As for Watson being "slow of comprehension," no less authority than Holmes himself commented favorably on "good Old Watson's intelligence, insight and occasional touches of 'pawky humor.' " To give but one example, was it to a "slow" Watson that Holmes observed, during the pair's \o7 joint\f7 investigation of the terrible and mysterious Baskerville hound? "Our researches have evidently been running on parallel lines."
In fairness to Champlin, the rest of his column makes clear his comprehensive and insightful knowledge of his subject matter, criminal \o7 fiction\f7 . I hope in the future that my enjoyment of his writing will not be marred by such gross and unpardonable errors when he writes about the \o7 real\f7 world.
J. NEIL GIELEGHEM, LOS ANGELES, MEMBER, THE SCOWRERS OF SAN FRANCISCO AND THE MOLLY MAGUIRES BAKER STREET IRREGULARS