16. Conan Doyle and George Edalji, with Shrabani Basu

The only surviving photograph of the Edaljis (1892). George is on the left.

This episode, Paul and I are delighted to welcome to the podcast journalist and author Shrabani Basu to talk about Conan Doyle, George Edalji and her new book
The Mystery of the Parsee Lawyer (Bloomsbury, 2021).

In 1903, the quiet village of Great Wyrley near Birmingham is shocked by a spate of horrific horse maiming. Suspicion improbably falls on George Edalji, a quiet, socially awkward, brown-skinned young lawyer, the son of Shapurji Edalji, the first Indian to become vicar of an English parish. The Edaljis have been subject to prolonged persecution and racial abuse for the last fifteen years, since a series of anonymous letters appeared in 1888.

Despite the flimsy evidence in the case, George Edalji is convicted of the maimings and is sent to prison. When he is released early, his conviction hangs over him and he is unable to return to his chosen profession. Frustrated, he writes to the one man he believes can help, the great author of detective fiction, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Paul and I talk to Shrabani about the details of the Edalji case, the evidence of police corruption Shrabani has unearthed, and the small-town racism that feels as relevant today as it was then.

You can listen to the episode below, or on the podcatcher of your choice

Biography of Shrabani Basu

Shrabani Basu is a journalist and Sunday Times best-selling author. Her books include the critically acclaimed The Mystery of the Parsee Lawyer, For King and Another Country: Indian Soldiers on the Western Front 1914-18, Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant (now a major Oscar-nominated motion picture starring Dame Judi Dench and Ali Fazal) Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan, and Curry: The Story of the Nation’s Favourite Dish. She is the founder and chair of the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust which campaigned for a memorial for the World War II heroine in London. It was unveiled by Princess Anne in 2012. Shrabani is a frequent commentator on radio and television on Indian history and Empire.

Principal works

The Mystery of the Parsee Lawyer (Bloomsbury, 2021) https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mystery-Parsee-Lawyer-Foreigner-English/dp/1526615282/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=shrabani+basu&qid=1626772540&sr=8-1

For King and Another Country: Indian Soldiers on the Western Front 1914-18 (Bloomsbury, 2016) https://www.amazon.co.uk/King-Another-Country-Soldiers-Western/dp/1408880113/ref=sr_1_4?dchild=1&keywords=shrabani+basu&qid=1626772561&sr=8-4

Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant (The History Press, 2010) https://www.amazon.co.uk/Victoria-Abdul-Queens-Closest-Confidant/dp/0752453645/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1626772561&sr=8-3

Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan (History Press, 2008) https://www.amazon.co.uk/Spy-Princess-Life-Noor-Inayat/dp/0750950560/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1626772561&sr=8-2

Curry: The Story of the Nation’s Favourite Dish (The History Press), https://www.amazon.co.uk/Curry-Nations-Favourite-Shrabani-2004-02-25/dp/B01K183K3Y/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=shrabani+basu+curry&qid=1626785206&sr=8-1_

Works by Conan Doyle referenced in the podcast

Uncle Jeremy’s Household (1887), https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=Uncle_Jeremy%27s_Household

The Mystery of Cloomber (1888), https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=The_Mystery_of_Cloomber

The Sign of Four (1890), https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=The_Sign_of_Four

The Story of the Brown Hand (1899), https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=The_Story_of_the_Brown_Hand

Next time on Doings of Doyle

Conan Doyle’s Anglo-Indian gothic tale, Uncle Jeremy’s Household (1887). Read it here: https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php?title=Uncle_Jeremy%27s_Household


Thanks to our sponsor, Belanger Books: www.belangerbooks.com, and to our patrons on Patreon.

Image credits: Thanks to Alexis Barquin at The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopaedia for permission to reproduce these images. Please support the encyclopaedia at www.arthur-conan-doyle.com.

Music credit: Sneaky Snitch Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons:  By Attribution 3.0 License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/