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The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Invention of Murder Paperback – December 4, 2007

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade; Reprint edition (December 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425217825
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425217825
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 5.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #898,018 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The author of Edgar winner Teller of Tales now recounts the story of Manhattan tobacco store clerk Mary Rogers, a mysterious beauty whose posse of admirers made her a minor celebrity in 1841 in various newspapers' society pages. The discovery that year of her mutilated corpse fueled a public outcry and a newspaper circulation war, as well as a fictional magazine serial by Edgar Allan Poe featuring his famous detective Dupin speculating on the murder of working-class Parisian "Marie Rogêt." Poe rightly deduced that Mary wasn't a victim of the gang violence that plagued New York City in the absence of an effective police presence. But he came late to the accepted theory that Mary had died of a botched abortion and had to tweak his final installment to maintain his and Dupin's reputations. Although Stashower's account bogs down in comparisons of Poe's revisions of the Rogêt manuscript, it's a generally absorbing account of the birth of the modern detective story. The sordid details of Mary Rogers's stunted life pale in comparison with Poe's own love-starved childhood, self-destructive tidal wave of alcoholism, poverty and rants against publishers and rivals; Poe's genius and literary legacy are hauntingly drawn here. (Oct. 5)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Mystery novelist Stashower, who won a nonfiction Edgar for Teller of Tales (1999), a biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, returns to his historical roots in this examination of a celebrated murder in 1840s New York City that turned Edgar Allan Poe into an amateur sleuth. The text ably weaves the story of a young woman, celebrated for her beauty and her untimely death, with that of Poe, whose poems and stories often celebrated the deaths of young, beautiful women. Mary Rogers worked behind the counter of a cigar store in Manhattan in 1841; she was so beautiful that the store was jammed with her admirers. On July 28, 1831, three days after Rogers had gone missing, her body was found floating in the Hudson. The press seized on her murder, but the New York police force (depicted by Stashower as completely disorganized) failed to find her killer. One year later, Poe (just after the success of his detective Dupin in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue") proposed to his publisher that he investigate this famous cold case. Although Stashower works a bit hard to invest this murder with multiple levels of significance, it remains an intriguing story, one that sheds considerable light on the snares of a big city for a young woman. Expect this book to attract readers who were entranced by The Devil in the White City (2003), another account of crime in the nineteenth century. Connie Fletcher
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

This book could have been more interesting with better editing.
The crime was in many ways central to Poe's career, and Stashower has included a brisk biography of the doomed author, making this a fascinating and multifaceted book.
R. Hardy
This is an excellent biography of Edgar Poe, well mixed with his interest in the murder of Mary Rogers.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Frank J. Konopka VINE VOICE on November 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Although this book holds itself out to be a review of the grisly murder of Mary Rogers in 1841 New York, it appears to, instead, turn into a biography of Edgar Allan Poe. That's not to say that this is a bad thing, but perhaps the title should have reflected that more than it does. The book is well written, with emphasis on what the newspapers of the time reported. That there is no solution to the murder mystery does dampen the enthusiasm of the reader somewhat, but that's what often happens when dealing with true crimes. I found the atmosphere presented very tangible, and I did enjoy the Poe biography (I've been to his grave in Baltimore), so the book held my interest. Perhaps others, not as interested in Poe as I am, will not find the book as enjoyable to read.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By C. Ebeling on January 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
THE BEAUTIFUL CIGAR GIRL is attention-holding social and literary history nimbly written by Daniel Stashower. It is the story of a real crime committed in July 1841 in or about New York City that transfixed the media of the day, challenged Edgar Allan Poe to put his detective fiction theories to the test and transformed New York before eventually fading away in the public consciousness a few decades later.

If there is something to be learned by the ubiquitous episodes of the "Law and Order" and "CSI" franchises, it is that a murder is never straightforward. Just like those shows, when the lovely, alluring yet innocent seeming Manhattan store clerk who worked in a popular smoke shop frequented by men of all walks of life goes missing and her body is later found washing up near a waterfront park in Hoboken, New Jersey, Pandora's box is opened. Circumstantial evidence suggests connections to the city's gang culture and abortionists. There is a revolving door of individual suspects, too, who may or may not have been the victim's swains. The police department is largely night watchmen and process servers prone to corruption and unequal to the task of fighting and detecting crime. Then the media steps in and it is hyped beyond belief. In Philadelphia, where he has taken umbrage after burning just about every personal and professional bridge in New York, Poe reads the newspaper accounts and realizes that his ever-present money problems and professional ambitions could be resolved by inserting the fictive detecting methods he created for "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." He puts himself on the line, advertising that in his new story starring his detective Dupin, "The Mystery of Marie Roget," he will solve the puzzle.

To say more is to spoil this very real plot.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Annie on October 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Daniel Stashower's newst book is a compendium of exacting scholarship; tight writing and razor sharp historical sleuthing that we have come to know from this modern master of the historical biography. The Beautiful Cigar Girl traces the murder of a popular commoner of the 19th century whose death captivated the press, ushering in a new era of sensationalism. Stashower does not duck the responsibility of going toe to toe with the hard facts and the murky details of the time and places. He edges into this story with the undeniably fascinating character of no less than Edgar Allan Poe and his interest in this most unusual story. While there have been at least 4 or 5 texts to deal with this murder, these figures and E. A. Poe's involvement, none holds a candle to this opus by the Edgar Award winning Stashower. His award is safe and worthy of the man it is named after, and how appropriate that EAP should sit on his shelf overlooking this story that never ends...for this volume makes us reconsider our modern press and every "murder of the century" from the story at hand right up to the Amish massacre recently. One word describes this massive amount of work, scholarship and raw talent: Bravo!
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Format: Hardcover
I would certainly tend to agree with some of the other reviewers who point out quite correctly that "The Beautiful Cigar Girl" appears to be more about the life of Edgar Allan Poe than about the unfortunate murder of a beautiful young woman. Nevertheless, author Daniel Stashower does a workmanlike job of weaving together the two stories that were so representative of life in New York City in the late 1830's and early 1940's. Times were tough indeed as the nation limped through a severe downturn in the economy.
The young lady who came to be known as "The Beautiful Cigar Girl" was Mary Rogers. In 1938 the proprietor of a local cigar emporium named John Anderson hired Mary to work as a salesgirl in his store. Thanks to his new hire and the convenient location Anderson's Tobacco Emporium proved to be an immediate and smashing success. Newspaper moguls, business leaders and government officials all frequented the store. Suddenly, Mary Rogers was somewhat of an "item" and her name would appear from time to time in various newspapers. As things turned out Mary Rogers only worked at Anderson's for a short period of time. However, when her her battered and bludgeoned body was fished out of the Hudson River in 1941 the apparent murder of Mary Rogers became a sensation in the newspapers.
The stories were rife with speculation and inuendo. Over the next year or so the story would take any number of strange twists and turns. And while the murder of Mary Rogers has never been conclusively solved the most likely scenario turns out to be quite surprising indeed!
In the meantime, it seems that Daniel Stashower devotes more than half of the pages of "The Beautiful Cigar Girl" to the life of Edgar Allan Poe.
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