Harold Schechter, Author Pocket Books $23 (336p) ISBN 978-0-671-79855-0
Young Edgar Allan Poe is the neurasthenic narrator of Schechter's period crime drama, and he recounts the legendary author's brush with real-life homicide as one of Poe's own protagonists would--with morbid, scientific rapture. A struggling journalist in Baltimore in 1834, Poe trounces the autobiography of frontiersman Davy Crockett in a scathing review. Crockett seeks out Poe with a mind to learn him some manners and extract an apology. Instead, the odd couple become embroiled in a series of gruesome murders, and Poe pursues a phantasmal woman who appears fleetingly at each murder scene and is apparently linked to his mystery-shrouded past. The author of several true-crime studies (Deviant, etc.), Schechter has plenty of blood-spattered material from which to draw his descriptions. Allusions to ""The Fall of the House of Usher,"" ""The Masque of the Red Death"" and ""The Raven"" (works yet to be written in 1834) suggest that Poe's literary masterpieces were based on the macabre personal experiences recounted here. Yet for all the appealing dynamic between rowdy Crockett and neurasthenic Poe, the heavily ornamented prose, while authentic to the period, is overwrought to contemporary eyes. A typical sentence reads: ""So benumbed was I by exhaustion that I passed the entirety of our journey in a condition akin to that of the chronic somnambulist."" One wonders if this tale might have been punchier if written from the point of view of Crockett, whose earthy banter provides comic relief. As it stands, however, this obvious homage to a C. Auguste Dupin detective yarn has plenty of suspense and nicely integrated background detail. Author tour. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/1999
Release date: 01/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 480 pages - 978-1-4516-1791-7
Hardcover - 597 pages - 978-0-7862-1939-1
Mass Market Paperbound - 352 pages - 978-0-671-79856-7
Paperback - 465 pages - 978-1-4391-8303-8
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