This summer, I’m re-posting the 10 Most-Read Stories Behind the Stories from this blog. I’ve rewritten each essay somewhat and included the most-often-asked question about the book.
As we continue our countdown, this book is #5 on the most-read list, my 21st book.
Sometimes Book A leads to Book B. Such was the case for The Man Who Was Poe.
My post, about Something Upstairs, mentions how I moved to Providence, Rhode Island, and how, once there, I began to read about local history.
While doing that I learned that Edgar Allen Poe had important connections to the city: He was trying to get married. Indeed, there is a photograph of him-often replicated—that was taken in Providence. The moment is a key part of the book.
When I first wrote Something Upstairs, which deals with time travel, I had my hero travel back to different moments of Providence history. At one such moment, he meets Poe. That multi-time plot structure however, did not work well, and I discarded the multiple times, and kept the story in one time zone.
Nevertheless, I had, so to speak met Poe. Moreover, he was (is) fascinating.
Therefore, when Something Upstairs was completed, I turned to Poe. It was enormously helpful that many of the places that Poe visited when he was in Providence, still stand. I could not just visit them, but walk the story almost in its entirety. You too, can do that, too.
Odd Fact #1. Part of the story involves a coded letter. Poe, who had been an editor, used printer’s marks for the code that appears in his book, The Gold Bug. I used the same code for an important moment in my book. When the printer of The Man Who Was Poe saw that code, he thought it was gobbledy-gook, and stripped it from the book. I discovered this when looking at the first printing of the book. I called my editor (Richard Jackson) Stop press!
A new page had to be printed, and the entire first printing was recalled and had a new tipped in page with the correct code.
Odd Fact #2. By the time this project first was put together, I had become friends with the artist, David Macaulay, the illustrator and writer. A Providence resident, he was teaching illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design. I asked him if he would do illustrations for the Man Who Was Poe.
Initially he agreed, but subsequently changed his mind. It is fun to think how the book would have looked if he had done illustrations.
But never mind, Mr. Macaulay won’t disappear from these stories. Stay tuned.
Most often asked question:
“How much of the story is true?”
Poe was in Providence, Rhode Island at this time, and he was courting a woman whom he hoped to marry. He did have his photograph taken as related in the book. Whenever you see a photo of Poe, it is that image you are seeing. It’s the only one there is.