Friday, August 9, 2013

The Purloined Detective

File:Edgar Allan Poe portrait B.jpg
Edgar Allan Poe
Who knows who the most famous man who never lived was? – Everyone shouts in chorus, “Sherlock Holmes of course!” Sir Arthur Conon Doyle, the creator of Holmes, was a bit of a Holmes himself with perhaps a dash of Doctor Watson. It’s often thought that Doyle created the detective story with his creative and frankly thrilling narratives such as The Red Headed League, Silver Blaze and The Hound of the Baskervilles.

But it wasn’t Doyle at all…it was Poe, Edgar Allan Poe. The same Poe who so movingly told of lost love in the poems Annabelle Lee and The Raven also wrote The Purloined Letter, The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Mystery of Marie RogĂȘt forty years before Doyle began publishing in the Strand. C. Auguste Dupin is Poe’s detective and the baffled Paris police seek his advice while his faithful unnamed friend narrates. All the aspects that set apart Sir Arthur Conon Doyle’s work are in these stories; systematic logic and seemingly impossible situations that are somehow possible. One has only to change the names to have three new Sherlock Holmes stories.

Sir Arthur Conon Doyle
Sir Arthur Conon Doyle certainly wrote some amazing stories, but like nearly all writers, he was standing on the shoulders of one who came before. Poe might have invented the detective story, but Doyle raised it out of obscurity while horrifying and delighting his readers for decades.       


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