We are celebrating Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday with a new short story anthology! Last year Jane Haertel, aka Sadie Hartwell (aka Susannah Hardy), asked the Wickeds if we’d be interested in doing a short story anthology based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories — only these stories would have a twist — a cozy take on his original stories. The result is the ebook Edgar Allan Cozy. Here’s how we chose our stories:
Edith: At a young age I was haunted – haunted, I tell you! – by the “The Tell-Tale Heart.”
And by young I mean nine or ten. When the light went out in my room at night, I knew I could hear that heart beating under the floor. I didn’t know anything about sanity or insanity. I didn’t know what a rheumy eye was. But I could feel that story. I’m not sure my mother was entirely sane letting her third daughter read Poe and the tales of Sherlock Holmes in the fourth grade. Read them I did, though, over and over, and that reading started me on the path to where I have ended up: writing mystery, heart-stopping suspense, and even a bit of horror now and then. I tried to craft “An Intolerable Intrusion” after the manner of “The Tell-Tale Heart” — only with a modern twist.
Sadie/Susannah/Jane: My story, “Within These Walls,” about a Shriner clown’s wife who inherits a brooding mansion set high on a bluff in Raven Harbor, Maine, is based on Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado.” While I love all the Poe stories and poems, this is the one that sticks with me. Our narrator gets his friend Fortunato drunk on Amontillado, a rare wine, then proceeds to wall him up–alive!–in his ancient house. I’m not in the least claustrophobic, but whenever I think of poor Fortunato dying, alone and desperate, in his dank, dark, sealed-up prison, I feel a little short of breath. A little palpitate-y. And it’s always driven me a bit mad that we never find out exactly what Fortunato did to his frenemy Montresor that motivated Montresor to get his revenge in this dreadful way. We’ll never know. But not to worry.. I gave the characters in my tribute story some specific motivations, so you won’t have to spend a lot of years wondering.
Sherry: A strange thing happened on the way to picking a Poe story for the anthology — I stopped to read the poem Annabel Lee because I hadn’t read it in years. And as soon as I finished reading it the story of Anna, Belle, and Lee popped into my head. It was one of those glorious moments in writing when something really flows. But because the poem is short, I needed to write a story too. I kept sorting through them and good heavens a lot of those stories are grim!
Then I came across the partially finished story of The Lighthouse which is a diary with only three entries. It in itself is a mystery. Why isn’t it finished? Or is it finished? No one really knows and I liked that. In my story I write about a relative who tries to find out what happened to her missing great-great-great grandfather using his diary entries. But she has some problems of her own.
Barb: We’ve all been transported by the rhythms, internal rhymes, and relentless story-telling of “The Raven.” But I’ve always wondered–what if the poem was moved to modern times? And what if the narrator was driven mad, not by a bird, but by the haranguing of a telemarketer? To answer these questions, I offer my updated version.
Sheila: While I had read most of Poe’s short stories years ago, I wanted to find something I wasn’t familiar with, and discovered the 1883 story “MS. Found in a Bottle.” The narrator is a sailor who encounters some rather extreme circumstances during a voyage on a cargo ship at sea. Or does he? Some early readers have asked if Poe meant this as a satire, or a parody of some contemporary sea stories—although they never quite agreed on which author Poe was poking fun at. Still, the editor who published the story called it “distinguished by a wild, vigorous and poetical imagination.” I thought it might be interesting to see what would happen if I recast the story with the sailor telling his story to a modern audience, and whether he would be believed under different conditions.
Readers: Do you have a favorite Poe story?
I love Poe, and have ever since I had to memorize “Eldorado” in 4th grade. I think my favorite story is “Fall of the House of Usher”. I don’t remember how old I was when I first read it, but the imagery caught me up and transported me into this fantastical world full of shadows and mists. Shortly after, I saw the movie, starring Vincent Price, and that made the imagery that much more vivid. I also like “The Mystery of Marie Roget”, the first mystery story based on a true crime.
Very interesting! What a legacy he has left!
What a fun idea. I love the juxtaposition of “cozy” with one of the least cozy writers ever! So clever. Is there a better description of a house anywhere in literature than the opening of “Usher?”
Thanks, Laura! We thought it would work.
What a great idea for an anthology! I can’t wait to read these stories. I don’t really have a favorite Poe story or poem. My mother loved Annabelle Lee, so that one is kind of special. And of course, The Raven. We had a plastic crow decoration in our yard once that I named “Edgar.”
Anytime someone mentions The Cask of Amontillado, I have to laugh. There’s a music video of a Toby Keith song where he’s building a wall and…you have to see it to appreciate it. Google “Toby Keith Cask of Amontillado.”
Anyway, congratulations on what sounds like a fantastic and fun endeavor!
Thanks, Joyce! We have riffs on all those in the collection.
What a great idea- I’m going to order for my kindle right now! As to fav Poe – Tell Tale Heart, hands down. Edith, I was right there beside you in fourth grade, reading Poe and Doyle.
Thank you, Diane. Interesting! I wonder what it was about fourth grade…
Masque of the Red Death is my favorite Poe tale. Long ago, I wrote a story inspired by it, but it has a giant flaw that I could not repair at the time. Hmm. Maybe time to revisit.
Great idea, Wickeds! Good luck with the anthology. Can’t wait to read.
Not a Ravens fan . . . But I love “The Raven.” I used to live over the hill from Poe Valley and Poe Paddy State Park (Pennsylvania) . . . according to legend, Edgar Allen wrote “The Raven” while residing in the very remote forest valley. Hauntingly beautiful. Smiles and Rock ‘n’ Roll!!!
That’s cool, Larry! We have a riff on The Raven by Barb Ross in the anthology.
I’ve mentioned how many of the “early masters” of the genre I haven’t read, right? I think the only Poe story I’m familiar with is Tell-Tale Heart. I remember liking it when I read it, but I’m not super familiar with his work.
Still, this being by the Wickeds (and Accomplices), I definitely plan to read it.
Oh, thank you, Mark! It was fun to do. I re-read or read synopsis of a lot of his stories that I hadn’t read in years (or some ever). They are dark.
The Poe story that haunts me is “Ligeia”. First wife Ligeia is mysterious, dark, brooding, exotic; sickens & dies; narrator then marries Rowena (who is blond, stable, opposite of Ligeia; she sickens and as she is dying it seems to the narrator that Ligeia is taking over Rowena’s body and re-animating. Spooky!
Oh, I will have to check that one out! His stories are spooky!
Downloaded to my Kindle this evening. Can’t wait to read it.
Thank you, Kathy! I hope you enjoy it!
I loved “Annabel Lee” as a young person also. Cannot wait to read this modern anthology because I have switched from horror reading to cosy! My biggest regret is skipping so many great children ‘s stories after I started reading adult writing in 6th grade. We can make up for it now with wonderful storytellers such as Cynthia Voight, Kathleen Ernst, Kate Milford, Lenore Hart, and Mary Downing Hahn, to name just a few. Thank you Edgar Allan Poe Cosy writers!
Thank you for the list of authors! I read some horror to some point in college and realized it all felt to real!
Late to the party in reading this. Poe was one of my favorites growing up. I was fascinated by his tales and, much as you said in your posts, his stories enthralled me — while scaring the dickens out of me (sorry, couldn’t resist that pun).
Bought the antho and now have some fun reading ahead of me.
“scared the dickens out of me” — ha! I hope you enjoy the anthology!
I was in Grade School when I first read Poe! And while his mystery stories have inspired my fiction, my favorite Poe story is a funny one: “Some Words With a Mummy.” I always thought it would make a cool episode of “Night Gallery.”
I will have to look it up!
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