In my previous entry on Adrian Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr’s collection of Sherlock Holmes pastiches, I mentioned that Carr only contributed to the first six out of twelve, and wrote: “The unsigned preface… says that this was because Carr suffered ‘a brief illness’; I’d always assumed this was code for creative differences or incompatible personalities, but apparently Carr really was undergoing health problems at this time, so maybe there was no dissimulation here.”
I have been reading a book titled From Holmes to Sherlock by Mattias Boström. It’s a history of the Sherlock Holmes franchise published by Mysterious Press in 2017. The author had access to Adrian Conan Doyle’s correspondence and provides more detailed information on the events surrounding the creation of Exploits. Here are the essentials in timeline form:
Early 1940s: Carr, working as a writer for the BBC, meets Adrian, predicts a postwar boom in sales of Holmes stories, and advises him to get all his ducks in order regarding foreign publication rights.
1946: Adrian hires Carr to write an authorized biography of Arthur Conan Doyle.
1947: During the writing of the biography, the two discuss the possibility of writing new Holmes stories, but nothing comes of it. The book is published and Adrian is very happy with it.
Over the next few years, the two remain friendly.
1951: Facing financial difficulties, Adrian decides that writing new Holmes stories would be a good way to fix the situation. He talks to Carr about it again and the two decide to write the stories together.
1951-52: The writing process begins. After collaborating fully on the first two, Carr and Adrian agree to write stories individually; each writes two more. Adrian becomes increasingly disenchanted with Carr, who is not writing his stories at anything near the rate Adrian wants. (Carr is also working on his own books, and a radio series for the BBC, and in addition he is in poor health after two unsuccessful eye operations.)
1953: Carr goes on a two-month bender. By the end, his weight has dropped to under 110 pounds. Adrian decides to write the last six stories himself.
1954: The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes is published.
So I think it’s confirmed that Carr’s withdrawal from the project was due to both ill health and personal differences with Adrian.
Adrian had a hostile relation with organized Holmes fandom in the U.S. When Exploits was published, the Baker Street Journal published a review saying a better title would have been “Sherlock Holmes Exploited” and quoted two lines from the original canon: “Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms” and “A child has done this horrid thing.” I think the review was motivated more by personal animus than the quality of the book; even the six Adrian-alone stories aren’t as bad as all that!