At the end of the 19th century, perhaps every man wanted to be Arthur Conan Doyle. He had written historical vels, short stories of horror and the supernatural; and displayed huge energy and talent in a variety of fields. He was a fine cricketer (he once took the wicket of the great WC Grace); played football, rugby and golf. He practiced as a doctor; campaigned for underdogs, introduced skis to Switzerland; and knew both Harry Houdini and Oscar Wilde. He was an adventurer, a controversialist, war reporter and knight of the realm. But most famously of all, he had created Sherlock Holmes, the world's most famous detective - based on his former medical professor, Joseph Bell. All in all, Doyle was a Boy's Own dream. Yet for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, all such achievements paled into significance when set against his commitment to spiritualism. Although interested in the subject for many years, he publicly converted to the cause around time of the First World War - much to many people's amazement: 'Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has many striking characteristics,' wrote Ruth Brandon. 'He is gigantically tall and strong. He is a gifted story teller. He is a man of strong opinions and considerable political influence. But perhaps the most extraordinary thing about him is the combination of all the attributes of worldly success with an almost child-like literalness and credulity of mind, manifested particularly in relation to spiritualism.' 'Conversations with Conan Doyle' is an imagined conversation with this remarkable figure. But while the conversation is imagined, Doyle's words are t; they are all authentically his. 'For many, Conan Doyle's commitment to spiritualism is an embarrassing aberration,' says Simon Parke. 'They want him to go back and just be the creator of Sherlock Holmes. But people don't fit into boxes, and Doyle certainly doesn't! So I want people to meet the man, hear him speak - and then make up their own minds. He's often passionate; but never dull.'
Simon Parke was a priest in the Church of England for twenty years, before leaving for fresh adventures. He worked for three years in a supermarket, stacking shelves and working on the till. He was also chair of the shop union. He has since left to go free lance, and now writes, leads retreats and offers consultancy. He has written for The Independent and The Evening Standard, and is currently columnist with the Daily Mail. His weekly supermarket diary, 'Shelf Life', ran for 15 months in the Mail on Saturday, and he now contributes another weekly column called 'One-Minute Mystic.' The book version of 'Shelf Life' has recently been published by Rider. The book version of 'One-Minute Mystic' is published by Hay House in Jan.2010. Other books by Simon include 'Forsaking the Family' - a refreshingly real look at family life. Our families made us; yet we understand very little of how our experiences as children still affects us. The book starts by contemplating Jesus' ambivalence towards his own family, particularly his parents; reflects on how our family settings can both help and harm us; and suggests paths for freedom and authenticity. 'The Beautiful Life - ten new commandments because life could be better' was published by Bloomsbury, and describes ten skilful attitudes for life. Simon leads retreats around this book, and talks about it on this site. It is now also available in audio form with White Crow books. Simon has been a teacher of the Enneagram for twenty years. The enneagram is an ancient and remarkable path of self-understanding, and Simon's book on the subject, published by Lion, is called 'Enneagram - a private session with the world's greatest psychologist.' 'Another bloody retreat' is Simon's desert novel, describing events at the monastery of St James-the-Less set in the sands of Middle Egypt. It follows the fortunes of Abbot Peter and the rest of the community, when the stillness of their sacred setting is rudely and irrevocably shattered. Simon was born in Sussex, but has lived and worked in London for twenty five years. He has written comedy and satire for TV and radio, picking up a Sony radio award. He has two grown up children and his hobbies include football, history and running. For more information,