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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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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.
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.
Top customer reviews
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This is really two intertwining stories, both fascinating and vividly detailed.
I have read other accounts of the Rogers murder mystery, but this is the only one that deserves to be read.
For over fifty years I have been reading Poe - and books about Poe - and this one, with a rare touch, fairly,
and without tedious intellectual license, fully presents "pauvre Eddie": brilliant, dim, doomed.
Impressively researched antebellum period: locations, customs and personages brought to life
with just the right amount of information to provide the necessary ambiance.
And as a murder mystery, detective story - or tale of ratiocination - this is truly a tour de force, with cross-cutting
between events and characters that makes it a real page-turner.
One very minor quibble: Mr. Stashower, to his great credit, mentions the overlap between Andrew Jackson Davis and Edgar Poe,
yet fails to credit Davis for indirectly inspiring Poe's Eureka essay. Some elaboration on that likelihood might have been illuminating, considering how excited Edgar was with the prospect of having it published - and how similar it is to Davis' Principles of Nature.
But above all, for those who appreciate good history (particularly American) and good detective work, this is a marvelously readable book.
“I think,” Poe once wrote… “that I have already had my share of trouble for one so young.” It was once of the few occasions where he might have been accused of understatement
-- Daniel Stashhower (The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and The Invention of Murder p 34)
…Edgar and his newborn sister spent much of their time in the care of nursemaids, one of whom, according to a family friend, “fed them liberally with bread soaked in gin” and “freely administered…other spirituous liquors, with sometimes laudanum.” This, the nurse believed, would “make them strong and healthy.”
-- Daniel Stashhower (The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and The Invention of Murder p 35)