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Discover the book Keith Richards would take to a desert island


Doctor Dogbody’s Leg by James Norman Hall, the cover of the 1940 edition

What book would you take to a desert island? Rolling Stones star Keith Richards selected Doctor Dogbody’s Leg by James Norman Hall when he appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs show last month.

The book is an entertaining collection of short stories told by Dr. Dogbody, a crusty one-legged old sailor, in a Portsmouth tavern called the Cheerful Tortoise. Each story, set during the Napoleonic Wars between England and France, reveals how Dogbody – a Royal Naval surgeon – lost his leg and each one is different.

“Every time he turns up at the table he gives you a different story about how he lost it and they’re all totally plausible,” said Richards on the show.

James Norman Hall (1887-1951) was a remarkable person. The American author is best remembered for writing the Mutiny on the Bounty trilogy, which he co-authored with Charles Nordhoff. Hall was a World War I hero who served with Britain, France and the United States during the conflict. He later lived on Tahiti where he specialised in writing adventure books.

In 1938, Redbook Magazine published three Doctor Dogbody stories in a limited edition of 1,500 copies.  Little Brown then issued another edition in 1940 with illustrations by Warren Chappell. You can see the cover at the top of the page – courtesy of Jeffrey H. Marks Rare Books from Rochester, New York, who is offering a copy for sale.

Holt also published a paperback edition in 1998.

I would love to hear this collection of stories as an audio book with Richards doing the narration. That would be fun. Perhaps the book could also be a Johnny Depp movie?

Doctor Dogbody’s Leg was the most searched for book on AbeBooks.co.uk last week. Sales of the book have been brisk with the most expensive copy to sell being a signed 1940 edition for £100 ($150) – one copy sold while I was writing this blog post.

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