As author Jeri Westerson (Troubled Bones) explains in her blog:
Another dead guy publishes. It’s getting annoying. Ah, well. The crux of it seems that Conan Doyle sent this manuscript, written between 1883 and 1884, to his publisher and it was lost in the post. He reconstructed it from memory (another cautionary tale to back up your work, people) but it was never published because it was never finished. He worked on it over the years but it is reported he was embarrassed by this first effort, as most of us are. I certainly wouldn’t want any of my first novels to see the light of day.Yet the British Library is just today making this book available.
The New York Times reports that The Narrative of John Smith is a “semi-autobiographical” work written “from the perspective of a 50-year-old man who is confined to his room when he suffers an attack of gout.” Not exactly what Conan Doyle readers would soon come to expect from this Scottish physician turned detective novelist. But then, in addition to the Holmes yarns this author penned the Professor Challenger adventures, science-fiction stories, many historical novels, and other works. Seventy-one years after Conan Doyle’s death, readers may be as interested in his Narrative as a historical document, as much as a piece of fiction, and forgive the weaknesses of a nascent wordsmith.