Saturday, January 19, 2013
Happy Birthday Mr. Poe
Good evening constant reader.
Today is Edgar Allan Poe's 204th birthday.
When Poe is mentioned, many of us think of his horror works.
But Poe is credited as the inventor of the detective fiction genre.
In 1841, Poe invented the modern detective story with "The Murders In the Rue Morgue".
In his story, Poe introduces his intelligent albeit eccerntirc detective C. Auguste Dupin who solves crimes using the process of rational thinking. Poe called this process "raciocination".
Dupin appears in two more stories "The Purloined Letter" and "The Mystery of Marie Roget".
Poe once stated in a letter to an associate dated 1848: "These tales of ratiocination owe most of their popularity to being something in a new key. I do not mean to say that they are not ingenious - but people think them more ingenious than they are - on account of their method and air of method. In "The Murders in the Rue Morgue", for instance, where is the ingenuity of unraveling a web which you yourself (the author) have woven for the express purpose of unraveling?"
Poe's Dupin is the predecessor of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had this to say about Poe:
"Edgar Allan Poe...was the father of the detective tale, and covered its limits so completely that I fail to see how his followers can find any fresh ground which they can confidently call their own. For the secret of the thinnness and also of the intensity of the detective story is that the writer is left with only one quality, that of the intellectual acuteness, with which to endow his hero. Everything else is outside the picture and weakens the effect. The problem and its solution must form the theme, and the character-drawing is limited and subordinate. On this narrow path the writer must walk, and he sees the footmarks of Poe always in front of him."
The Mystery Writers of America present an annual award called The Edgar Award for outstanding work in the mystery genre.
Stay tuned for a future post listing past Edgar Award winners.