Sherlockian Author Profile Paul Ashton

While we were driving from Rye to Hastings in July of last year my wife noticed a car boot sale in a field by the road and we decided to stop for a look. On the stall of two brothers who make a living from house clearances in the area I spotted Sherlock Holmes’s famous Practical Handbook of Bee Culture. Hardly able to believe my good luck, I bought it for £2.

The book records Holmes’s bee-keeping activities while in retirement in East Sussex. It has always been thought that no copies of this legendary volume had survived, one of which Holmes gave to Watson on the eve of World War I, as recorded in the story His Last Bow. To my amazement, I found that the Handbook is not just about bee-keeping. Holmes includes in it material about his day-to-day life in Sussex – including his marriage to Mrs. Hudson – as well as stories of investigations he undertook during the period 1904-1912, and accounts of two terrifying attempts that were made on his life. The revelations in some stories are so indiscreet that I believe Holmes had the book privately printed for circulation only among his intimate circle.

I’m pleased to be able to make the text of the Handbook generally available; I’m sure it will delight all followers of the great detective. And it contains a quite extraordinary treasure – several photographs taken by Holmes himself, four in which he actually appears, two showing Dr. Watson and one showing the recently-married Mrs. Holmes.

Paul Ashton, March 2017