Friday, June 7, 2013

Please welcome our guest Edith Maxwell!

In keeping with the theme of this blog, I thought I'd write about my connection to Edgar  Allan Poe. When I mentioned this to Sheila, she said, “You have connections to POE?” Many thanks to her for inviting me over, and hope I don't disappoint!

Well, I'm not related to Poe. I don't own a first-edition of anything. I haven't even visited  his grave.

As a child, like my parents and my two older sisters, I was a voracious reader. We kids pretty much had free range of the extensive bookcases in the house. My mother loved reading mysteries, so after I finished off Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys,among other, I set to work on her Agatha Christies.

In about fourth grade I discovered a couple of other books that drew me in. The Complete Sherlock Holmes. And, you guessed it, a volume of Poe. I don't remember if it was Tales of Mystery and Imagination or some other edition.

I still shiver when I remember how these stories scared me. I was a child with a way-too-vivid imagination. I had nightmares. My mother didn't let me watch Twilight Zone on television. She became furious with a babysitter who let us watch a scary movie one night. But for some reason, she didn't monitor my reading content. Or maybe she was just too busy with my high-energy younger brother and managing a houseful of four children all less than two years apart to pay attention. So I happily read and read and reread these horrific frightening stories, flipping the pages with heart racing.

For years afterward, when I was alone in a quiet room, I could HEAR that heart beating under the floorboards. Even today when I enter an antique basement that includes bricked walls, I wonder if the Count is behind them. And, while I knew the ceiling over my bed was solid and intact during the day, I would lie in bed wide awake in the dark, knowing the speckled band was about to descend through the grate in the corner of the ceiling. I still can't watch horror movies.

But it's that kind of imagination that makes a mystery writer, right? When you see a black shape by the side of the road at dawn or twilight, don't you wonder if it's a body? (Even when you get closer and see that it's really a black trash bag?) When you hear about a poison, you wonder how you can work it into a story. When I'm walking the fields of a farm nearby, I can imagine the murder in the next Local Foods mystery, whether it's mayhem that contrasts with the lush green of a late spring morning, a killing in nature's autumnal senescence, or murder under cover of ice and snow as the fields rest during winter.

Here's a wonderful passage about imagination from “The Raven,” which I found captured on a glass at Kim Grey's gift shop in Baltimore after Malice Domestic last month:

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,' said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -
'Tis the wind and nothing more!'

What's your favorite scary story? Did you read Poe and  Holmes as a child? How does your imagination get carried away?

Locavore Edith Maxwell's Local Foods mysteries let her relive her days as an organic farmer in Massachusetts, although murder in the greenhouse is new. A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die releases May 28 from Kensington Publishing. A fourth-generation Californian, she has also published short stories of murderous revenge.

Edith Maxwell's pseudonym Tace Baker authored Speaking of Murder featuring Quaker linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau and campus intrigue after her sexy star student is killed. Edith is a long-time Quaker and holds a long-unused doctorate in linguistics.

Edith lives north of Boston in an antique house with her beau and three cats. She can be found at


Yves Fey said...

I loved Poe. When I was about eight, I saw a short of The Tell Tale Heart at the movies (they still did things like shorts all the time then, plus news and two cartoons). Very very scary. That was a favorite. And The Fall of the House of Usher. Lovecraft can be great, too. And I love Borges, who's not really scary, but deliciously mind-expandingly weird.

Edith Maxwell said...

Thanks for stopping by, Yves! I think a movie of the Tell Tale Heart would be terrifying.

Deb Hardcastle said...

I've always had a passion for Poe. My grandmother had a 10 volume set of his works, so I started reading his horror and suspense pretty young. Pit and the Pendulum has always been the story that gave me nightmares.
I just finished Raven's Bride by Lenore Hart and loved it.

Linda R said...

Add me to the Poe lovers. One of his scariest stories ever was The Pit and the Pendulum. I had nightmares for weeks!

Edith Maxwell said...

The Pit and the Pendulum: /shiver/ Glad to know there are fellow fans, Deb and Linda!

Jeff Baker said...

There was a collected Tales and Poems in my grade school lunchroom (we could read after we ate!)and I devoured a copy my folks had! Best title? "Never Bet The Devil Your Head."