Edgar Allen Poe and the Birth of Detective Fiction Genre

  1. 1. Life:

    Much like Vincent Price, Poe lived a tormented life. His writing, the most famous of which speaks of death, hurt and a raven appearing at his window, is spine-chilling. Poe was born in 1809 in the haunted city of Massachusetts, although he didn’t stay long due to the death of his mother. Throughout his life, he moved around and encountered problems that would later force him to drop out of college.  He tried to join the U.S. Military Academy but was quickly expelled for missing drills and classes. 

    He later moved to Baltimore where he became a critical book reviewer and married his cousin Virginia Clemm. Poe’s job as a reviewer would bring him a lot of enemies in his life. His career was critiqued from its beginning. In 1849, spiraling alcoholism would bring Poe into a dark depression and his mysterious death. There are a number of theoriesabout Poe’s death, as to this day the cause remains uncertain. 

  2. 2. Career:

    Poe’s time was short lived and tumultuous, but he left a literary legacy that marked the beginning of the detective mystery genre. He is known as one of the greatest influencers on the gothic horror story and science fiction genres as well. His writing style—which brings stories to life through excellent use of tone, wording, language and structure—set the basis for 19thcentury literature. He is referred to as the “architect of modern short story.” 

    In his writing, he also shows a profound understanding of the human psyche. In just a few sentences, “The Raven,” one of his most famous poems, makes us feel nostalgia, mourning and the never-ending pain of the narrator’s loss. 

    There is an ominous speaker in the back of our minds with every poem of his we read. As well as with his poem of beautiful Anabelle Lee. (That rhymed!)


  3. 3. Detective Fiction:

    “Where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?” Writer Arthur Conan Doyle asks, and so do I. But before Sherlock Holmes works, there was Poe’s detective. 


    Main character C. Auguste Dupin was born from the short story series, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” In it, Dupin is smart, witty and a lover of poetry. He has a Don Quixote-and-Sancho Panza-like sidekick who accompanies him in the adventurous task of solving crime. The story is narrated from the detective’s perspective, inciting the reader to draw their own conclusions about the crimes. He taps into the occult, and he messes with analysis and the use of dark humor. Much like a scientist, Poe created a formula for the genre and established the basis to what would soon become thousands of writings. 


    “The elements Poe invented are many. They include the reclusive genius detective. His ‘ordinary’ helper and the impossible crime. They also include the incompetent police force, the armchair detection. The locked room mystery, etc. All have become firmly embedded in most mystery novels of today,” Historians write.