Richard Lancelyn Green
Green was born in Bebington, Cheshire, England. His parents were Roger Lancelyn Green and June Green. His father was an author known for his popular adaptations of the Arthurian, Robin Hood and Homeric myths, and his mother was a drama teacher and adjudicator. He attended Bradfield College in Berkshire, and then University College, Oxford, where he earned a degree in English. After leaving college, he travelled extensively, throughout Europe, India and South-East Asia.
Green was a collector of Sherlock Holmes-related material, and was co-editor of the first comprehensive bibliography of Arthur Conan Doyle, A Bibliography of A. Conan Doyle, with John Michael Gibson, and also a series of collections of Doyle's writings that had never before been collected in book form: Uncollected Stories (1982), Essays on Photography (1982), and Letters to the Press (1986), all co-edited with Gibson. The Conan Doyle bibliography earned Green and Gibson a Special Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America during 1984.
Green also published other books on his own. The Uncollected Sherlock Holmes (1983) anthologised Doyle's non-canon Sherlock Holmes writings, The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1985) is a collection of Holmes pastiches and parodies, and Letters to Sherlock Holmes (1985) collected the most interesting of letters to Sherlock Holmes, arriving at the headquarters of the Abbey National Building Society, whose address in Baker Street was the closest to the fictional "221b".
Green was something of a showman, appearing as a 19th-century music hall master of ceremonies at events of the Sherlock Holmes Society, of which he was chairman from 1996 to 1999, and dressing in period costume to visit Reichenbach Falls, where Sherlock Holmes was thought to have died until Conan Doyle "resurrected" him eight years later. For his encyclopaedic knowledge of Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes, and for his scholarly works, he was well regarded among scholars of Holmes.
Later in life, Green worked extensively on notes and collecting material for a planned three-volume biography of Conan Doyle, which remained unfinished at the time of his death. He lamented the legal wranglings needed to gain rights to Conan Doyle's private papers and manuscripts, which were planned to be sold at an auction.
During August 2004, it was announced that Green had bequeathed his extensive collection on Conan Doyle to the Portsmouth Library Service. Green had chosen the city because Conan Doyle had a medical practice there, and it was where the two first Sherlock Holmes books were written.
As early as the age of seven years, Green began his collection of Sherlockiana, and created his version of 221b Baker Street in an attic room at Poulton Hall, gleaning material for a few shillings at junk shops and from the family's own Victoriana. Later he began to assemble his literary collection, and would add any edition of Doyle's output, as well as posters, ephemera and novelty items with a Sherlock Holmes theme or Doyle association.
By the date of his death Green had been collecting voraciously for more than 40 years and without doubt possessed the largest collection of Doyleiana that existed privately (and probably the largest such collection that ever could exist now that it has been bequeathed to the City of Portsmouth). The collection is now held by the Portsmouth City Museum where exhibitions have created much interest. The patron of the collection is Stephen Fry.
Last days, death, and aftermath
Green suspected that the Conan Doyle papers being auctioned at Christie's were part of a collection that Dame Jean Conan Doyle, the author's daughter, actually wanted the British Library to have. He attempted to stop the auction, but was unsuccessful.
In the weeks before his death, he told friends and journalists that an unidentified American was following him, and that he feared his opposition to the auction could endanger his life. His behaviour became increasingly erratic, and once he insisted on speaking to a visitor in the garden because he said his apartment was bugged.
During the night of his death, his sister telephoned his apartment, obtaining only his answering machine, which had a new message with an American voice (this was found later to be the standard message tape supplied with the machine). Her worries about this resulted in the discovery of Green's body, face down on his bed, garrotted with a shoelace that had been tightened with the handle of a wooden spoon.
Murder was suspected, and there was some newspaper gossip. Because the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) was not called at the start, any evidence that might have been useful for a murder enquiry had been disturbed or removed during the course of dealing with the body.
The Coroner returned an open verdict. Many of Green's best friends thought it was not in his nature to commit suicide. However, some thought the death to have been an elaborate suicide, intended to seem like murder, to cast suspicion upon one of his rivals. This replicates the plot of one of the last Sherlock Holmes mysteries, The Problem of Thor Bridge, in which a woman commits suicide in a manner meant to implicate the woman with whom her husband had been flirting.
Green's bizarre death later inspired two novels that deal with a fictional Holmes expert who dies in exactly the same manner as Green. Those books are The Art of Detection (2006) by Laurie R. King and The Sherlockian (2010) by Graham Moore. Each novel's plot not only features a Holmes expert but a missing Doyle manuscript and each explores the possibility of suicide disguised as murder as was suspected in Green's death.
- "Introduction to Richard Lancelyn Green". The Arthur Conan Doyle Collection Lancelyn Green Bequest. Portsmouth City Council. Retrieved 11 September 2012.
- "Conan Doyle Collection". www.visitportsmouth.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-12-09.
- User, Mr Services (2013-11-27). "Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle Collections". www.portsmouth.gov.uk. Retrieved 2015-12-09.
- Day, Elizabeth (12 December 2004). "Case of the Sherlock Holmes fanatic 'who killed himself but made it look like murder'". The Daily Telegraph.
- Smith, David (23 May 2004). "Return of the curse of Conan Doyle?". The Observer.
- David Grann, "Mysterious Circumstances." The New Yorker, 2004-12-13. Reprinted in Grann's anthology of essays, The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession. Doubleday, March 9, 2010.