In her review of Round the Fire Stories, by Arthur Conan Doyle, posted here in May a year ago, Mary Reed began by saying:

   None of the Round The Fire Stories features Mr. Sherlock Holmes, although two mention anonymous letters to the press presenting solutions which some readers believe to have penned by the great detective himself (“The Man With the Watches” and “The Lost Special”).

   And then in a footnote, she later added the following:

   In “The Man With The Watches” we see: “There was a letter in the Daily Gazette, over the signature of a well-known criminal investigator…”

   “… and then we have “The Lost Special,” in which we learn of a letter: “… which appeared in the Times, over the signature of an amateur reasoner of some celebrity at that date, attempted to deal with the matter in a critical and semi-scientific manner. An extract must suffice, although the curious can see the whole letter in the issue of the 3rd of July.

“‘It is one of the elementary principles of practical reasoning,’ he remarked, ‘that when the impossible has been eliminated the residuum, however improbable, must contain the truth’.”

   And I think we’ll agree the second letter in particular has his grammatical fingerprints all over it, but it raises another question: why didn’t Conan Doyle write these two adventures as Holmes stories? Were these stories written during a period when he was thoroughly tired of his own creation?


   In a comment left last April, and inexplicably never acknowledged by me until now, Brian Gould replied by saying:


   You ask, “Why didn’t Conan Doyle write these two adventures as Holmes stories?”

   A clue to the answer, I believe, is that in both cases the unnamed letter writer was wrong. In “The Lost Special,” the train had been driven onto one of the four side lines of which it was earlier remarked that they “may be eliminated from our inquiry, for, to prevent possible accidents, the rails nearest to the main line have been taken up, and there is no longer any connection.” The villains had temporarily relaid the missing rails.

   In “The Man With The Watches,” nobody jumped from one train to another. The dead man had been in the Euston to Manchester express all along, but had removed his disguise before his accidental killing, which occurred when his criminal associate attempted to shoot a third man who had joined them in their compartment but missed.

   Doyle’s intention, surely, is humorous. He is simply making fun of his own creation, Sherlock Holmes, who does not usually commit such blunders.

Kind regards,

   Brian Gould


   My apologies to Mr. Gould for not pointing out this very useful reply until now. My only excuse is that I was out of town attending the Bordentown pulp and paperback show around the time his comment was posted, and I suspect that in the rush to catch up when I was back here at home, I simply failed to.

   But here’s what I discovered that prompted my attention back to “The Lost Special” again, a rare find: one the “missing” episodes of Suspense, one of Old Time Radio’s best-known, and longest-lasting mystery programs.


   I won’t post a link directly to the MP3, but I strongly recommend you go to Randy Riddle’s podcast blog and listen to it there, along with more information about both the disk and the program Of special note, until he found the disk, the program may not have been listened to in over 60 years, a “lost special” in and of itself. Excepted from Randy’s comments, here’s the basic info:

   Unheard publicly since September 30, 1943, we bring you Orson Welles starring in “The Lost Special” a “tale well calculated to keep in you Suspense!.” Originally broadcast on the CBS radio network, but now lost, the version heard here was distributed by the Armed Forces Radio Service as program 24 in the Suspense series.

    “The Lost Special” is based on a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story and concerns a train that mysteriously disappears. The story was also used on the series Escape on February 12, 1949, so it may seem familiar. (You can give it a listen here.) However, in the “Suspense” version, the story is told by the main character and framed as a broadcast by a condemned man that will reveal the identity of persons responsible for certain crimes.


   Orson Welles appeared in the series Suspense eight times between 1942 and 1944 in such classics as “The Hitchhiker” and “Donovan’s Brain.” One of Welles’ performances, “The Lost Special,” was thought to be one of about thirty-five Suspense programs missing out of over 900 broadcast during the run of the series.