Exploits and Adventures of Brigadier Gerard

by Arthur Conan Doyle, 18 stories written sometime before 1930 when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died

Appealing, warm-hearted book by the author of Sherlock Holmes. The main character is Etienne Gerard of Napoleon’s army from 1807 to 1821. He loves his Emperor and will do anything for him. There are 18 adventurous tales. They involve secret missions, romances, daring escapes, journeys and battles. He is small but handsome, cocky, proud, loyal, not too bright, but an excellent horseman and swordsman. The adventures take you all over Europe during the Napoleonic Wars. This book was a book-a-day recommendation. Here is what they said:

From the Creator of Sherlock Homes

After he’d killed off Sherlock Holmes at Reichenbach Falls, Arthur Conan Doyle turned to what he considered his true metier: historical fiction. The most enchanting of his efforts in this genre, and certainly the funniest, are the stories collected in The Exploits and Adventures of Brigadier Gerard. An officer in Napoleon’s army, Etienne Gerard is a fearless defender of the emperor’s honor, a master horseman, and a master swordsman–not to mention an expert cardplayer, indefatigable lover, and accomplished spy. Most important of all, he is a peerless teller of tall tales. These 19 stories display a side of Conan Doyle that few know: a side that anyone who enjoys the Sherlock Holmes stories–or who simply relishes a good yarn–would be wise to uncover.

All the writing is superb but jere are two quotes I marked from this long book:

“A French gentleman fights but he does not hate.”

“For my own part it seemed to me that with so just a cause we should have done best to ride boldly up to his door and summon him to surrender the lady. But there I was wrong. For the one thing which every Englishman fears is the law. He makes it himself, and when he has once made it it becomes a terrible tyrant before whom the bravest quails. He will smile at breaking his neck, but he will turn pale at breaking the law.”

One of his exploits is to scout enemy territory on horseback. While doing so, the enemy (the English) are about to engage in a fox hunt. He is drawn into the chase like a magnet and ends up in the lead and kills the fox with his sword. He thinks the English are cheering him on from the distance and never realizes that he has committed an almost unforgivable sin. I guess the hounds are the ones who get to kill the fox.

Arthur Conan Doyle is an incredible writer! He sets the stage for each story, and his dialogue and characters are so well-written, you feel like you are there. The settings are beautiful, and the characters are warm-hearted and endearing. This is not one of my favorites, however, because there is a lot of the humor that I miss since it involves the 1800’s and French and European history, and it is very long – 18 stories – so it got tiring after awhile. But, still, an enjoyable book!