Fiction Authors Get It Wrong

Jim McKenney
Fri, 12 Jun 2009 12:48:31 PDT
This one is off topic because it does not involve plants – it involves

I’m a big fan of the Agatha Christie mysteries which were broadcast on PBS
during the 1980s and 1990s. Recently, I discovered that I can download many
of these from the local library system and watch them right here on my pc.
It didn’t take me long to go through all of the Poirot episodes with David
Suchet. So one night I found myself looking for something to watch and
noticed that there were lots of Sherlock Holmes episodes available. 

I decided to watch the one called The Speckled Band. The title refers to a
snake, an apparently apocryphal Indian snake. The whole plot depends on the
viewer believing that someone could train a snake to do something on
command. That’s a stretch in itself, but the real let down comes in how it
was done: the murderer released this poisonous snake to do its dirty work
and then whistled to it to get it to come back into its cage. 

Even in Conan Doyle’s time it was widely known that snakes evidently do not
respond to air borne sound. So the whole plot depended on a misconception. 

The very next day I found myself listening to a program on PBS in which the
participants were praising Conan Doyle for the excellence of his plots. I
was tempted to call in and give them an earful, but I didn’t. 

The wikipedia account of this story claims that Doyle regarded it as one of
his best stories!

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.03871º North, 77.09829º West, USDA zone
My Virtual Maryland Garden
Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 
Editor PVC Bulletin 
Webmaster Potomac Lily Society

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