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On Night's Shore: A Novel Hardcover – January 19, 2001
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Fans of Caleb Carr's historical mysteries will lap up this well-told tale of murder, mayhem, poetry, prose, and political corruption in mid-19th- century New York. The poetry and prose comes from Edgar Allan Poe, the mayhem from young Augie Dubbins, a street urchin befriended by Poe when he leads the writer to the body of a murdered girl trapped under a pier in the Hudson River. The unlikely duo join forces, visiting the darkest, dirtiest slums and opium dens of the city as well as its glittering mansions to track down the story behind the death of Mary Rogers, a shop girl whose connection with the power brokers of the city is at the heart of this literary mystery.
Augie's love for Poe, who seems like the father he never had, drives the narrative as strongly as the inner demons that beset the struggling poet, encountered here a decade before his final descent into the darkness he so brilliantly depicted. Although Poe's death is foreshadowed here (the story is told from the perspective of an Augie grown old after his own career as a writer), it doesn't detract from the immediacy of the story or the emotional resonance of the relationship between an unlikely pair of heroes this reader strongly hopes to meet again. --Jane Adams
From Publishers Weekly
In 1840, when the poorhouse is the largest building on Manhattan island, a nicely drawn Edgar Allan Poe investigates the murder of shopgirl Mary Rogers in this updating of the original tale of ratiocination, with its post-Chinatown layers of political corruption and surprise piled upon shocking surprise. Such surprises have become common in the wake of the Towne screenplay, but the versatile SilvisAplaywright, novelist (Mysticus; etc.)-does a solid job with the form. Poe based his seminal "The Mystery of Marie Roget" (the first crime story inspired by an actual murder) on the death of Rogers, but "at a distance... and with no other means of investigation than the newspapers afforded." Silvis puts him on the scene in a narrative Watsoned by the aged August Dubbins, who looks back to when he was 10 and Poe's assistant. Poetic observations by the older Dubbins are strong points, but little Augie is often a very weak linkAmore than once the Hardy Boys seem credible by comparison. Humor at the expense of the unwashed urchin may amuse some readers, who also might be put off by occasional verbose (but Poe-esque) flourishes, such as "odd brachiation in an unpredictable temperament." And extremely sordid details don't jell well with boyish adventure (Augie is no Huck Finn). Still, this is a satisfying literary mystery with a convincing picture of Poe as "a man in search of a sepulchred truth." Agent, Peter Rubie. (Jan. 1) Forecast: An enthusiastic blurb by Laurie King and a period-accented cover spark the marketing for this novel by an award-winning author (1993 Hammett Prize for An Occasional Hell). Handselling to fans of other historical literary thrillers, such as Caleb Carr's, could boost sales; and there may be some notice on the Net of this title, which contains parallels to the Frankfurt eBook Award-winning Paradise Square, which also features Poe as a detective.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Together they discover the body of another young woman caught under the docks and embark on an investigation which takes them from the squalor of the Five Points slums to the glitter of Fifth Avenue, where Augie learns that ruthless depravity thrives at all levels of society.
Narrated by Augie many years later "On Night's Shore" seamlessly incorporates elements of Poe's later tales into the narrative - "The Mystery of Marie Roget," "The Cask of Amontillado," "The Black Cat" - without overreaching. Poe is a gloomy, driven man whose genius is beset by poverty, nagging self-doubt and bouts of drunkenness. Augie, brutalized, clever, and resourceful ("in calamity, opportunity"), attaches himself to Poe as a father figure, enchanted by his family circle of consumptive, gentle wife and strong, generous mother-in-law.
Despite occasional backsliding into, respectively, despair and opportunism, Poe and Augie bring out the best in one another and together they delve into Mary Rogers' working class life, shattering several official versions of the murder on their winding path into the bastions of city power. Atmospheric and suspenseful, Silvis' ("An Occasional Hell," "Excelsior") character-driven story brings the city to life in all its cruelty and grandeur and the writing - mannered, gritty and eloquent - evokes the voice and sensibility of the time.
Silvis recreates 1840s New York with an unstinting and often brutal clarity. His elegant, evocative prose is suggestive of Poe's own style and his narrative integrates elements from Poe's more popular works. The characters, real and fictional alike, are masterpieces of insight into the human experience. Nowhere is this insight more evident than in the author's rendering of Edgar Allan Poe, a brilliant, compassionate and fatally complex man whose devotion to his work was exceeded only by his love for his family.