The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe

This is a book which I borrowed from my local library entirely because it’s one of those ‘cultural tumbleweed moments’ for me. Do you know what I mean? It’s something which is often referred to because we are all supposed to have experienced it and for some reason there are always things which have just passed me by – or I’ve passed them by, hence that feeling of complete ignorance whenever the subject comes up.

So I thought it was high time I got around to reading The Murders in the Rue Morgue especially as vintage crime is one of my favourite sorts of reading matter. There are two other short stories in the book – The Mystery of Marie Roget and The Purloined Letter.

Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1809 and this short story was first published in 1841. It’s generally described as the first real detective story and Dupin the detective is a type similar to Sherlock Holmes. Poe seems to have set the pattern for the brilliantly observant detective with a helpful partner which so many other writers have copied. Conan Doyle described Dupin as the best detective in fiction, some Holmes fans might have argued with him on that one.

Anyway I enjoyed these short stories although I have to admit that it’s really 1930s crime fiction which is my favourite, for me that was really the golden age of crime fiction. Given that this is part of the history of the whole crime genre I’m really glad that I read them and I now know what people are talking about when they mention The Murders in the Rue Morgue. I think it must have been quite shocking when it was first published as it’s really quite gory and violent.

I’m sure I read somewher that Edgar Allan Poe was of Scottish descent but according to Wiki it was just his foster father who was Scottish. Poe did go to school in Irvine, in the west of Scotland, at one point before moving to England and then back to America. He also married his 13 year old cousin, so I’m not at all sure that we would want to claim him as a Scot!

Is there anything which you feel you should have read or experienced years ago and for some reason haven’t, resulting in those tumbleweed moments?

Olivia in India by O. Douglas

This is the first book which O.Douglas, sometimes known as Anna Buchan, had published (in 1912). It’s very autobiographical and it’s written in the form of a series of letters, the first of which is written from a ship in Liverpool which is ready to set off on the long voyage to India. Olivia is going to India to spend time with her bother, affectionately nicknamed Boggley. He is in India doing some sort of Empire related job.

We only read the letters which Olivia is writing and it’s very near the end before we learn who she’s actually writing them to. There are never any replies, although she sometimes alludes to something which has been mentioned in a letter to her. Obviously the early letters are all about the voyage and the other passengers but when Olivia reaches India she’s all over the place, experiencing as much of the life there as she can, taking trains across the country, visiting the Taj Mahal and meeting all sorts of people, good and bad.

So it’s all very different from her other books which are set in Scotland but she does write about home and reminisces about the past. She even mentions that she’s writing a book, encouraged by her brother John’s books’ good reviews.

So I started wondering how much of this book was fiction and I had a look at the index of O.Douglas’ biography “Unforgettable, Unforgotten” and sure enough she did go to India to visit one of her brothers. I’ll have to get around to reading that one soon.

I enjoyed Olivia in India and I think it is probably a realistic account of life in India for Anglo-Indians, the fear of mutinies and disease and the odd bomb or two being thrown as Indians became more and more dissatisfied with their position as part of the British Empire.

I borrowed “Olivia in India” from the library but I’ve promised myself that I’m not going to look at books when I return the ones I have out. Last week I went to two libraries in two different towns and apart from this book I also borrowed:

Symposium by Muriel Spark
The 12.30 from Croydon by Freeman Wills Crofts
Augustus Carp Esq. by Himself
The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allen Poe

The Poe book is one of those ones that I feel I should have read years ago and for some reason or other I haven’t.

So, with an eye on the due back dates I’m neglecting my own books and Mary Stewart’s The Ivy Tree in particular has been glowering at me from the top of a pile of books which are balanced on a cantilevered sewing box near my bedside. I’m banning myself from the library!