In 1909 Arthur Conan Doyle, at a celebratory dinner for Poe’s centenary thrown at the Author’s Club in London, asked this of his comrades: “Where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?”
An apt question, and certainly one that Poe’s Deadly Daughters have been exploring this week. While we won’t always be writing about Poe, I think we all wanted to give him his homage in this, our launch week, to sort of earn our stripes as his honorary daughters.
It is true that while Conan-Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is often unfairly given credit as the first, the archetypal fictional detective, it is Poe’s undersung Auguste Dupin who deserves that honor, and Dupin who undoubtedly influenced the creation of many detectives who followed him.
Like Lonnie, though, I have probably been more influenced by Poe’s horror. For me, Poe is the master of mood, not only in his stories but in his poetry, and his facility with diction was a key factor. We all know that he ratchets up the tension in “The Raven” by increasing his pace and his alliterative lines. Who doesn’t like to revel in “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore . . . .” even before they meet the “stately raven” who wanders into the room and then NEVER leaves again? Or was he ever there? This reminds me of Sharon’s comment about Poe and rationality; in “The Raven,” rationality (“the pallid bust of Pallas,” or Athena, the goddess of wisdom) is overshadowed by the great black bird itself, and the irrational dominates from then on. Hence the famous “nevermore.”
Even moodier is the brooding Montresor in “The Cask of Amontillado,” the most haunting Poe story I ever read. I can never hear Poe’s name without thinking of that horrible jingling of bells, a normally happy sound turned ghastly by Poe’s context, the damp catacombs, deep beneath the revelry of Mardi Gras.
I’d like to add at this point that Sandra Parshall is very adept at creating a moody, almost gothic feeling in her book The Heat of the Moon. This mastery of mood is a gift, and Sandra has it.
So, since Sandra and Liz posed a question for readers, I will, too. What are the books with the most dominant moods: the ones that have stayed with you for years? Aside from Poe I would have to list Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca as my number one. What about all of you?
(image from www.teleport-city.com)