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Thursday, July 28, 2011

FORGOTTEN BOOKS: THE ADVENTURES OF BRIGADIER GERARD!

FORGOTTEN BOOKS: THE ADVENTURES OF BRIGADIER GERARD!

SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE

I will admit to making the mistake of many mystery fans – equating Conan Doyle only with Sherlock Holmes. It’s well known Doyle killed off Holmes because he felt the character was overshadowing all his other writings – and he was correct. Forced to bring back the cursed Holmes, Doyle’s other writings truly fall into the forgotten books category.

However, I discovered The Adventures of Brigadier Gerard via Rupert Degas' brilliant performance on a recent reissue of the book on CD, and the stories are terrific!

Narrated by Gerard as an old man living in Paris in retirement, the stories ar filled with his most treasured memories  –  his days with the French Hussars fighting in the Napoleonic wars against the British and their allies.

Gerard is conceited, vain, and very, very French.  He remembers himself as the bravest soldier, greatest swordsman, most accomplished horseman, and most gallant lover in all France – yet despite these conceits, he does displays notable bravery on many an occasion. He is obsessed with honor and glory, and is completely uncomprehending of the English and English manners, making him the perfect foil for Doyle to turn a humorous and cynical eye on his own countrymen.

THE ADVENTURES OF BRIGADIER GERARD

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had a great talent for creating memorable characters. The hero of The Adventures of Brigadier Gerard is one of his most ingenious inventions.

There is no braver officer in Napoleon's cavalry than Etienne Gerard - especially in his own opinion. Whether kidnapped by gangs of brigands or outnumbered by enemy troops, the plucky little soldier is constantly gallant, chivalrous and ready to face any danger, even if he doesn't always think before he acts. With great gusto Gerard recounts the swashbuckling exploits and adventures of his glittering military career – carrying out secret missions for Napoleon, eluding capture by the Duke of Wellington, making a daring break from an English prison, rescuing ladies in distress, dueling to the death against the dastardly Baron Straubenthal and even saving the day at the Battle of Waterloo.

Preposterously vain and yet endearing, Brigadier Gerard makes for a tremendously fun companion as he relives the adventures of his military career fighting in the Napoleonic campaigns.

"In its pages you will find adventure, action, romance, love and self-sacrifice, hair's-breadth escape and reckless courage, gallantry, panache and a droll, backhand humor that rivals that of P.G. Wodehouse. You will also find yourself, even more than with the celebrated stories of Holmes and Watson, in the hands of an indisputable artist. For more than any other adventure stories I know, these stories have a power to move the reader." — Michael Chabon

The Brigadier Gerard stories were originally published in The Strand magazine between December 1894 and September 1903. They were later issued in two volumes as The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard in February 1896, and The Adventures of Gerard in September 1903. Having started with the second volume, I have already obtained the first for further enjoyment.

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