BLACK PLUME: The Suppressed Memoirs of Edgar Allan Poe by David Madsen
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BLACK PLUME: The Suppressed Memoirs of Edgar Allan Poe

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Opium dens of lurid lust! Murders most foul! Labyrinthian tunnels deep under New York City in the 1830s thundering with cops and Corsicans! And the secret life of Edgar Allan Poe! All this in a lively penny-dreadful entertainment, the ""confession"" of Poe--who plays detective, victim, and conqueror of the mad mind of a Corsican bandit while brooding on his exotic marital problems and storing up matter for his Murders at the Rue Morgue. On the way to Richmond to take a newspaper post, Poe meets two Corsican ladies, Alix L'Espanaye and daughter Camille, two beauties ""dark velvetine, tempestuous,"" who turn out to be phrenologists whose fairy fingers roam quickly off the cranium. In their Richmond parlor, where he goes with newspaperman Barrow Reece and larking others, ""their sensual ministrations brought the laudanum in my head to the boiling point!"" It is this ""near-permanent state of arousal"" which fuels the guilt that bars Poe from consummating his marriage to pure, very young cousin Virginia (she'll eventually protest). But less sensual dangers also lurk: the Corsicans' butler is loaded fatally with laudanum; Barrow, who was investigating the ladies' past, is found expunged into his type tray; and in New York, where Poe moves his family, the L'Espanayes are brutally murdered. So Poe, discovering that the French inspector supposedly helping the ladies was their deadly enemy from the old country, Mario de la Costa, enlists the aid of New York Corsicans led by Renzo Gentnetta. Renzo can reach any building in the city--including Poe's house, where de la Costa will corner him--by tunnel. And there's a final chase spectacular featuring Renzo's death, a grisly cholera ship, and a fatal trouncing of de la Costa by a giant orangutang. In all the excitement, the style sags--unlike Hurwood's more serious My Savage Muse--from its Poe-ishness; but no matter--it's a must for fans of inventive gaslit amusement.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Simon & Schuster