|Behind the Book: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
Consider my book, The Man Who was Poe. On page 139 of the paperback edition, one of the characters, Captain Elias, says to Edmund, the boy hero of that book, “Now, Master Edmund, if you’ve time to hear a good yarn, I’ve one for you. You see, the Lady Liberty had a sister ship. Seahawk, her name was—” Captain Elias’ yarn was, of course, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, the Seahawk being the ship in which Charlotte’s story takes place. How did this happen? As I was writing the book about Edgar Allan Poe, since he invented mystery stories, I was thinking about them a lot.
His Murders in the Rue Morgue is said to be not only the first mystery story, it came to be known as a “locked-room mystery.” That’s to say, something happens in a locked room that—because the room was locked—defies explanation. As I worked on the Poe book, I began to think: what could be more of a “locked room” than a ship in the middle of the ocean? That was the origin of True Confessions, and so it appears in the Poe book because that’s what I was thinking at the time. Now of course, as I wrote True Confessions it evolved into something quite beyond a mystery. But, if you read the book carefully, you can see there is an element of a murder mystery there. And that’s the way it began—in another book!
As for the title, when I thought of it, I assumed it would not work because there must be a million books with a similar title. But when I checked, to my amazement, there was not one. Happy to grab it.