Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Profile: Louis Bayard Examines Poe's Character in West Point Mystery

The Pale Blue Eye by Louis BayardLouis Bayard, who recently published his second mystery, The Pale Blue Eye, was profiled this week by Regis Behe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Bayard's previous book, Mr. Timothy, featured an adult Tiny Tim from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The Pale Blue Eye features a young Edgar Allan Poe.

Behe writes that while other 19th century writers -- notably Mark Twain and Herman Melville -- loom larger in the contemporary literary consciousness, Poe's influence is ever-present. For The Pale Blue Eye, however, Poe's presence is initially as a secondary character, the central action of the novel involving Gus Landor, a retired New York City constable.

"[Poe] has so many layers and so many complexities," Bayard says, "and that's what makes him such a fascinating person to make a character out of. Not all writers necessarily would make good characters, but Poe has so many dark patches and grandiosities and excesses."

Behe continues that Bayard tried to mimic some of Poe's writing in the dialogue -- what he calls Poe's "garrulous, Latinate quality" -- juxtaposed against Landor's staid Anglo-Saxon voice. But the third central character in the novel is silent throughout. West Point provides a backdrop that, like Poe, is familiar to the public but is basically unknown to those who have not attended the academy.

Behe also includes a synopsis of the book: A retired constable investigates a murder of a West Point cadet, and a young Edgar Allan Poe -- who actually attended the academy -- assists in the investigation. Bayard deftly combines elements of Poe's style with his own story; especially jolting is an ending that shocks but, nevertheless, seems fitting.

Read Behe's entire profile here.

Reviews of The Pale Blue Eye have been stellar. Publishers Weekly states, "This beautifully crafted thriller stands head and shoulders above other recent efforts to fictionalize Poe." Kirkus Reviews adds, "Bayard's second offering is another literary tour de force ..."

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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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