Apparently nineteenth-century sleuths are enjoying a resurgence. The fictional detective Sherlock Holmes enjoys an unflagging popularity, and recently he has enjoyed renewed attention in the mystery writers' community. There are those among us who love the recent Robert Downey Jr. movie version, and who look forward to the coming sequel; there are those who think it is a travesty and a corruption of the canon.
Others have taken great glee in the recent BBC limited series, starring the delightful Benedict Cumberbatch, in which Holmes is thrust into modern times. Then there is the 2010 book The Sherlockian, an entertaining novel by Graham Moore, in which the author alternates chapters featuring a contemporary protagonist who has just been inducted into a society that reveres Holmes and finds himself applying Holmesian principles to solving a crime, with chapters tracing a fictionalized account of Arthur Conan Doyle's foray into detecting in 1900. Holmes lives on, in many incarnations.
So it was inevitable that the commercial television networks would sit up and take notice: now ABC has commissioned a series pilot starring the non-fictional Edgar Allan Poe as a detective in the 1840s in Boston. Titled simply Poe, the one-hour drama is described as "a crime procedural that transforms the famed author and poet into the world's first detective, who uses "unconventional methods to investigate dark mysteries in 1840s Boston."
As you may recall, we Daughters here recently celebrated Edgar's birthday, and I'm not sure any of us would envision him as a sleuth. Not only did he seldom sit still (he spent time in the military, he worked at a variety of jobs, and he changed residence frequently), but he rarely completed anything save poems and some significant short stories. In the 1840s–the period that ABC has chosen–he announced he would start his own journal in Philadelphia–which never happened. He sought a political appointment–which never happened. He went back to New York, where he worked for a time in journalism. Then he moved to the Bronx, where his wife died. When did he manage to spend any time in Boston, much less solve any crimes there?
While Poe may be labeled the inventor of the mystery story, he didn't do it in Boston–Philadelphia claims that honor. He may have been born in Boston, but he had a rather rocky relationship with its writers, to the extent that it has been called a literary war. Poe was quoted as saying of Boston, "Their hotels are bad. Their pumpkin pies are delicious. Their poetry is not so good." He simply didn't like Boston.
So one must wonder why ABC decided that Boston was a better place than Philadelphia, Baltimore or Richmond VA to set a mystery series. It's sure not the weather. More "dark crimes" there?
Still, I suppose we Daughters should be pleased that our mentor is being inducted into the ranks of mystery writers who solve crimes, on the small screen (and at least he won't be scheduled opposite Castle).
Now the most important question is, who would you cast as Poe?