In 1974, Nicholas Meyer published The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, a novel about Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. The book was a bestseller and became a hit film. Meyer, who is also a movie and television director (HBO’s Vendetta), has recently published his fourth novel about Holmes, The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols.
He felt the timing was right for a mystery for the beloved detective involving The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an early 20th century book of anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. “I have had a lifelong interest in forgery, and it seems to me we are now living in an era of forgery. Everyone shouts at everyone else about fake news,’’ Meyer said. “The Protocols, concocted by the secret police of Czar Nicholas II, linked a group of Jews to a plot to take over the world. It was the biggest forgery of all time. Although it was debunked as fake, it never has totally gone away. In fact, recently Vladimir Putin invoked it when talking about the presidential election.’’
We caught up with the author recently by phone from Los Angeles.
What’s on your nightstand?
I am re-reading Oscar Wilde by Richard Ellmann. It is one of the best biographies on Wilde ever written. It is a pity Richard Ellmann never saw it published. As a companion, I am also reading Oscar Wilde: His Life and Confessions by Frank Harris. He actually knew Oscar Wilde. I am not sure if he is always as reliable as Richard Ellmann. A lot of people have questioned what he wrote, but it is good to get his take.
The third book is a huge biography by Ingrid Carlberg of Raoul Wallenberg (Raoul Wallenberg: The Heroic Life and Mysterious Disappearance of the Man Who Saved Thousands of Hungarian Jews From the Holocaust). It is the first time I saw everything gathered in one place, and it is reliable. It is about what became of Wallenberg after he disappeared inside Russia.
You mentioned you read Ellmann before. How long ago?
It might have been 25 years ago. It’s worthwhile to read more than once. Richard Ellmann is a quiet, balanced, scrupulous writer who writes very beautifully. It is not ostentatious. It’s a cumulative effect. This man has run more meaning out of the life of Oscar Wilde than Oscar Wilde ever put into it.
What is your favorite Arthur Conan Doyle story?
Doyle wrote a lot that was not Sherlock Holmes. He wrote the original King Kong and The Lost World. That was pretty swell. For his Sherlock Holmes stories, there is The Red-Headed League, Silver Blaze, The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot and The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans.