More About the Author
I'm the author of Grim Legion, a mystery/thriller (see THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW below), and I'm the special projects/investigations editor at The Journal News, a 125,000+ daily in Westchester County, N.Y. Aside from ten years in Berkeley and San Francisco, I've lived in and around the Hudson Valley for most of my life.
My novel is set at West Point in the month's leading up to the court martial of Cadet Edgar Allan Poe -- it's a little-known fact that Poe was expelled from the military academy in 1831. To this day, the reasons for the 21-year old's trial are sketchy. My version of history fills in the missing pieces: Poe and his crazier, opium-addicted brother, the talented and tragic Henry Poe, try to solve a series of gruesome murders near the famed academy -- only to become suspects themselves.
It's the tale of a promising young cadet who, in trying to do his duty, blunders into a military conspiracy and is plunged into a world of horror, mystery and intrigue that is his destiny.
Poe's short tenure at the Point occurred at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, and the novel pits the writer's Romantic sensibilities against the nascent machine age. The story unfolds among the Gothic crags and deep shadows of the Hudson River highlands.
Henry Leonard Poe, Edgar Allan Poe's little-known brother, plays a major role in "Grim Legion" ...
Henry Poe wrote and published more than 20 short stories and poems in Southern literary magazines before his brother had penned a single tale. Older than Edgar by two years, Henry was something of a rake and romantic who ran off to sea, sailed up the Amazon, fought in the Greek civil war and visited Russia, all in the late 1820s.
A tubercular alcoholic, Henry's tragic life was cut short at the age of 24 before he had a chance to fully develop his talent. Soon after his death, his brother began to write in earnest, achieving the immortality that forever escaped Henry.
"Grim Legion" brings Henry back from the dead, exploring the close relationship between the two brothers and Henry's influence on the master of horror and mystery fiction. The novel attempts to rescue Henry Poe from obscurity and restore him to his rightful place in early American literature -- as a character and a major influence on his brother, if not a well-known author in his own right.
Here's an excerpt from an article by Joe Queenan writing about "Grim Legion" in The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, April 8, 2007) :
A short while ago, a ripping yarn called Grim Legion: Edgar Allan Poe at West Point came across my desk. Published by Bewildering Press, a relatively new firm that specializes in speculative writing, Grim Legion recounts the rousing adventures of the future author of The Fall of the House of Usher shortly before he was expelled from the United States Military Academy in 1831. A bit of a screw-up, though not yet the morbid, self-destructive alcoholic he would later become, Poe has stumbled upon a monstrous plot by a shadowy organization called the Helvetian Society ...
FROM AUTHOR GARY GOLIO
The Vicarious Pleasures of Poeian Pain, October 8, 2008 By Gary Golio "Rockwriter" (New York, USA) - See all my reviews (REAL NAME). Despite my depressive disinclination to read sad, dark stories these days (given the somber political and economic tales that surround and infect us daily), once I started GRIM LEGION, I couldn't put it down. Sick in bed with a cold for two days, it was the perfect accompaniment--or should I say, antidote?--to my misery, and I enjoyed every sad, dark minute that the book provided. As a longtime aficionado of Symbolist poetry (particularly Baudelaire and Rimbaud), Dylan lyrics, and things Poeian, I was most impressed with Alcott's ability to create such a rich picture of the emotional life of Edgar and his brother, their dipsomaniacal and substance-fueled vulnerabilities/troubles, and the social setting which motivated, imprisoned, and eventually doomed them. As a therapist (clinical social worker) who has worked with many artists struggling with mood and addiction troubles, I also found the author's treatment surprisingly kind and well-balanced--a remarkable feat! Add to that, the flavorful vernacular and bawdy (almost burlesque) womanizing + youthful misadventures of the brothers Poe: truly memorable writing that's stuck in my mind for days on end now. In short, GRIM LEGION is a rear window into the early mind and soul of the immortal Edgar, and a chance to hang with the Master of the Macabre without placing oneself in the least bit of physical danger. As for the psychic and emotional after-effects, I make no guarantees....
FROM AMAZON.COM. UK
A Personalised Window into Poe's World, 28 Oct 2007By Stefan Brenner "qbalber" (Cambridge, UK.) - See all my reviews
Having read the work of Edgar Allen Poe without a real understanding of his world, I was fascinated by Alcott's book. I confess that, initially, I was somewhat put off by the rough-and-ready style; then, suddenly, the penny dropped. I realised that Alcott's unforgiving language had been deliberately designed to mirror the grim reality of Poe's life in an American Military Academy; an institution where he, virtually alone almong his peers, was not the son of wealthy upper class parents who could pull strings to make life easy. Alcott shows how, without such privileges, Poe's situation at West Point spirals ever downwards in a drunken whirlpool of alcohol, opium, conspiracy and debauchery. Hounded by a secret society within the 'Point' and let down by his superiors, Poe learns to rely only on his wits, the help of his only surviving blood relative, and his inner desire to go on living no matter what. When, having lost his brother, his sweetheart and his friends, he leaves never to return, we are able to see how these experiences will come to be translated into the grim tales of horror and despair we all know. Read this and acquire a highly personalised window into Poe's world.
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