What Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Poison Belt’ tells about the creative process

There is a message for us in the creative life of Arthur Conan Doyle, who tried to kill off his most immortal creation.

Doyle got tired of writing the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and wrote a stirring final episode in which the famed detective dies. The public outcry was such that he had to bring Sherlock back.

As an alternative to Holmes’ death, Doyle instead breathed life into new characters, notably the bombastic but brilliant Professor George E. Challenger and the three friends with whom he discovers The Lost World. Instead of destruction (killing Holmes), Doyle chose the creative act of assembling an entirely different iconic character.

While the world largely knows Challenger through The Lost World, there are four other tales, three of which are collected in The Poison Belt, my latest little product under the Richardson Press emblem. In the title novella, the four adventurers reunite to face a graver threat than dinosaurs: a section of outer space the Earth is passing through that may result in the death of the human race itself. In “The Disintegration Machine,” Challenger investigates an inventor who claims to have created a device that can scramble a person’s atoms and then bring him back — sort of an early version of Star Trek’s transporter. And “When The World Screamed,” the professor theorizes that Earth is one giant living being, and he proposes to get that being’s attention. Still to come to complete my little Challenger trilogy: The Land of Mist, a novel steeped in the spiritualism that marked Doyle’s later years.

The lesson from Doyle’s work: Don’t dismiss the good you’ve done before. Do keep finding new ways to exercise your creative chops.

Challenger is not as immortal as Holmes — but The Lost World and its sequels are still something special nearly 100 years later.

W.B.s Book Report: Thou Shall Prosper

Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s book is one of those eye-opening, game-changing books. He purports to explain what money is and how money works.

The laws of the marketplace don’t change — you can try changing the rules as governments often do, but it won’t work. Lapin explains the rules as clearly as I’ve ever seen, drawing on the ancient teachings of the Torah itself.

Business and money itself, Lapin says, are products of humanity’s spiritual nature. As such they only work well when values like trust and integrity are at play. Again, some folks find temporary success with business and money without trust or integrity — but the emphasis there is on temporary.

This is one of those rare books that needs to be read more than once — studied and absorbed. I would be doing a disservice by trying to relate its concepts based on my still-growing understanding.

This much I can and will say: The attitude of our nation’s leaders and most entertainment venues toward business and business people is based on falsehoods and a complete misunderstanding of the free market. I knew that much instinctively before I picked up this book, and Lapin does a nice job of explaining why it’s true.