I mentioned Poe Must Die last month when I wrote about boxing and I wondered whether this 1978 novel by Marc Olden was quite as good as I remembered it, so I tracked it down to one of our more obscure bookshelves, blew the dust off the dust-jacket and read it again.
And it was as good as I remembered. Despite the lurid title, it is a satisfying gothic thriller and is best summarised by the author’s own website;
In Victorian London, the black magician and spiritualist Jonathan seeks out the Throne of Solomon which will grant him immortality and dominion over Lucifer, Asmodeus and all the demons of the upper air. His search leads him to New York, a city of slums and death.
Pursuing him is Pierce James Figg, a bare-knuckle fighter and teacher of sword and knife fighting, whose wife Jonathan has seduced and brutally murdered and who is responsible for the death of his son. Figg carries with him a letter of introduction from Charles Dickens to Edgar Allan Poe, the brilliant and tortured genius whose intellect and genius outrun his common sense.
Olden writes well in the Victorian English vernacular and it is only the occasional spelling of words like meager, honor and jewelry that reminds you that the author is American.
Without giving too much of the plot away, you can guess that it concerns the supernatural and takes place in the horrific slum areas of 19th century New York, particularly the terrible crime-ridden conditions that the immigrant population endured in Five Points.
It also focusses on the strengths and personal demons of E A Poe — his powers of deduction, he is acerbic tongue, his alcoholism and his black moods.
Poe Must Die isn’t something you’ll find in your local bookshop, but is available online for as little as $1.99.