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The Lost World:'The Lost World of Arthur Conan Doyle'
The Lost World of Arthur Conan Doyle

By John Lavas

For quite some time now, we've been waiting with baited breath for John Lavas' special 90th anniversary collectors' edition of Conan Doyle's classic adventure tale. We've even been able, through John's gracious patronage, to provide you with some preliminary artwork from the edition and an essay by John to whet your appetite. Unfortunately, now that the edition is finally released, we didn't realize that John would go and stab us in the back by creating something that would put this very website to shame. Thank you, John, for making my website but a pale shadow of your collectors' edition!

All kidding aside, this is a fantastic text and deserves a place in any Lost World collection worth its salt. The first half of the book is comprised of 7 chapters of John's exhaustive research into Conan Doyle's background influences. Chapter 1 offers a biography of Conan Doyle while chapters 2 and 3 discuss the history of Amazonian exploration that partly inspired the author.

In chapter 4 we are treated to an exploration of The Lost World's literary precursors and the fossil finds right in Conan Doyle's own backyard. Chapter 5, "Casting the Characters", discusses the African and South American rubber trade, the attrocities that were committed therein, and the opponents of it who inspired the characters of Roxton and Malone. Chapter 6 offers a glimpse into the cultural scene that made The Lost World's documentary verismilitude possible, including the great archeological discoveries coming out of South America, wildlife discoveries coming out of Africa, and palaeontological dicoveries coming out of their ears. The final chaper discusses the Piltdown Man, the curious resemblance of Maple White Land to Conan Doyle's home turf of Sussex, England, and other odds and ends to finish up this retrospective.

This first half is worth the price of admission alone, and is an invaluable resource for Lost World fans. John outdid himself with the level of research and brought together countless separate sources in various essays and articles to provide a more comprehensive picture. But for the interested, there is a bibliography which serves as a "must have" list of LW-related texts.

The second half of the book is novel itself, generously illustrated by John and helped along by the art of famed Czech paleo-artist Zdenek Burian. You've already seen John's work here on this website, and are no doubt familiar with the paintings of Burian, so there is no need to gush further. This is a fantastic presentation.

John stated as his intent that "by the time of its centenary, Doyle's novel will have further confirmed its rightful position among the most highly regarded examples of its genre." Only time will tell if he accomplished this goal, but this text is certainly an intrumental part of that journey. This is, as I have stated, an essential edition for any Lost World fan, as the insight it gives into the creation of this classic story in unparalleled.

Currently, the print run is limited to 500 copies, so it is a good idea to contact John as soon as you can. His mailing address is:

John R. Lavas
P.O. Box 14-421,
Panmure,
Auckland 6,
New Zealand