200 Years with Edgar Allan Poe

“Once upon a midnight dreary…” So begins “The Raven,” one of the spookiest poems by a master of the macabre and mysteries – Edgar Allan Poe. Born on January 19, 1809, this influential 19th century author of works such as the “The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Fall of the House of Usher” celebrates his 200th birthday this week.

The U.S. Postal Service honored Poe on this occasion with a commemorative stamp. Not quite so grandly, I’ve decided to read a book for my celebration of his birthday.

The library has hundreds of books written by or about Edgar Allan Poe, but I’m going to pick up a novel inspired by his short, dramatic life. Poe left a long legacy and dozens of books depict Poe as a fictionalized character. These recent mysteries look particularly entertaining.

The Pale Blue Eye book jacket

Publishers Weekly called The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard a “beautifully crafted thriller.” This novel depicts the fictionalized Poe as a young cadet at West Point in 1830. Another cadet is found hanged and mutilated and Poe acts as an insider and aid to the investigating detective.

An Unpardonable Crime by Andrew Taylor features a 10-year old Edgar Allan Poe. Winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Historical Dagger award, this historical mystery set in 1819 London centers around the murder of the father of Poe’s friend and schoolmate.

Poe died under mysterious circumstances in 1849. Matthew Pearl, bestselling author of The Dante Club, spins this historical mystery into his novel The Poe Shadow. A Baltimore lawyer and fan of Poe’s work becomes obsessed with clearing Poe’s name and figuring out what actually caused Poe’s death.

Author Randall Silvis depicts Edgar Allan Poe as an amateur detective in On Night's Shore. Set in 1840 New York, Poe works as a reporter and, with the help of a young street urchin, investigates the murder of a shop girl found in the Hudson River.

So, take your pick of Poe: the 10-year old schoolboy, the young cadet, the hard-working reporter, or the enigmatic death. 200 years later, even our fiction doesn’t forget.


Angela Kille

Angela Kille is the Web Content Developer at the Kansas City Public Library.