Who’s That Classic Author? Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe

Hi Everyone – this post originally appeared in 2015, but I’ve spiffed it up and I’m posting it again, in case you missed it way back when!

Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849) was an American writer, editor and literary critic and is mostly known for his Gothic short fiction and poetry. Much of his work incorporates suspenseful themes of horror and death. He is considered the inventor of the modern detective story and a contributor to the development of science fiction. Poe was known for writing vicious reviews and made a number of enemies because of them. He died in Baltimore under mysterious circumstances, after being discovered nearly unconscious outside a bar room.

Some quick facts:

  • Poe was the second of three children.
  • His parents were traveling actors.
  • His father abandoned the family in 1810 and his mother died when Poe was three years old.
  • He was raised by John Allan, a wealthy tobacco merchant, and his wife Frances Allan.
  • Allan tried to make Poe into a businessman, but Poe preferred writing poetry. Their relationship had many ups and downs.
  • In 1826, Poe enrolled at University of Virginia, but left after one term due to lack of money. Allan had sent him there with less than one third of what he needed and Poe gambled to pay his debts and burned his furniture to stay warm.
  • After leaving the university, he adopted the pseudonym “Henri Le Rennet”.
  • In 1827, he published his first book of poetry, Tamerlane.
  • That same year, at age 18, he enlisted in U.S. Army under the name “Edgar A. Perry” claiming he was 22. He served for two years, became a Sergeant Major and then tried to get out of the remaining three years by confessing his real name and situation. His commanding officer said the only way Poe could leave the army was if he reconciled with his foster father. Poe reached out to Allan for help, but Allan ignored his request. Eventually, however, Allan gave in and used his influence to get Poe into West Point.
  • In 1830, Poe entered West Point and was thrown out eight months later.
  • In 1833, he moved to Baltimore where one of his short stories, “MS. Found in a Bottle” won a contest sponsored by the Saturday Visiter.
  • In 1835, Poe became an editor for Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond, where his short stories were published. His boss fired him three weeks later for being drunk on the job, but he was eventually taken back and worked there until 1837.
  • Poe married his thirteen-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm in 1835. They had a happy marriage until her death in 1847, despite rumors of affairs.  Poe was devastated by her death and lived only two more years.

From left: Virginia Clemm, Rufus Griswold, Nancy Richmond

  • During this period, Poe became rivals with Rufus Griswold when Griswold took Poe’s place as editor (at a higher salary) of the publication, Graham’s Magazine. Poe had also written some biting reviews of Griswold’s work,  adding to the rivalry.
  • In 1845, “The Raven” was published and made Poe famous.
    In 1848, Poe met Nancy Richmond, the wife of a wealthy businessman. They had an intense, but platonic love affair.
  • In 1849, Poe was found nearly unconscious outside a bar room. He died three days later. An article from Smithsonian.com – “The (Still) Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe” – explores different theories as to the cause of Poe’s death.  Poe was found outside a polling house for elections on an election night. Popular theories include being beaten, excessive alcohol consumption, rabies, poisoning, murder, and the practice of “cooping” (a type of voter fraud in which a man was kidnapped and disguised and forced to vote multiple times for a candidate, receiving alcohol after each vote).
  • After Poe’s death, Rufus Griswold wrote an unflattering obituary, and later, a memoir/biography about Poe in which he portrayed Poe as drunk and a womanizer. Ironically, the biography led to increased sales of Poe’s work.
  • Griswold died of tuberculosis in 1857. The only decorations in his room when he died were three portraits, one of himself, one of Poe and one of the American poet Frances Osgood, who had a complicated and intense relationship with Poe!

Here is a partial list of Poe’s short fiction and poetry

“The Cask of Amontillado”
“The Pit and the Pendulum”
“The Purloined Letter”
“The Tell-Tale Heart”

“Annabel Lee”
“The Raven”

Thanks to the following websites for providing information about Poe:

The Museum of Edgar Allan Poe
Wikipedia article about Edgar Allan Poe
Wikipedia article about Rufus Griswold
The World of Edgar Allan Poe

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Book Review: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None
Agatha Christie

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Ten strangers are invited to visit a luxurious private island off the coast of Devon, England. People are talking about who the mysterious new owner of Soldier Island might be. The curious guests don’t care. Their invitations suggest a vague connection to a person named Owen and they all accept. When they arrive, there is no host, just a message to settle in.

After dinner, a shocking and eerie recording charges each with separate murders. “Prisoners at the bar,” the voice asks, “have you anything to say in your defence?” Although never officially charged with the murders, it’s a new kind of justice on Soldier Island and it turns out that each guest has something to hide:

Something went terribly wrong for one of Dr. Edward Armstrong’s patients. The butler and cook, Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, must explain how a woman under their care died. Spinster Emily Brent must account for the death of a young woman. Former detective William Blore lied under oath, and the defendant died. For Vera Claythorne it’s the drowning death of a young boy. Captain Philip Lombard once left twenty-one East African tribesmen without food or water. General John Macarthur sent one of his men to certain death. Anthony Marston’s drunken driving took the lives of two young people. And Justice Lawrence Wargrave abused his influence in court, sending the defendant to his death.

As a storm rages, one by one, the guests die, just like in the children’s nursery rhyme, “Ten Little Soldiers.” They soon understand they are isolated and their supply boat won’t return for days. What to do?

This is my second Agatha Christie mystery and it’s perfectly constructed. Every clue means something (even the red herring!) and the eventual explanation is clever and satisfying. Just like when you meet a stranger, you have to go through the process of learning about the person and understanding his or her motives. Because they each have something to hide, you can’t know for sure if this one has a good reason for having a weapon or if that one has a good explanation for what went wrong in the past. And as the numbers dwindle, their strategies change. Is staying together as a group a good idea? Is it best to lock yourself in your room?

In a twisted form of vigilante justice, the killer makes his/her guests pay for crimes that were untouchable by the law. How they react and how they justify their actions is just as interesting as the mystery itself.

I enjoyed And Then There Were None, but I’m taking off a star because of the occasional racist commentary, which I also noticed in The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Can you go back and change the way a classic and famous book is written? I don’t think so, but this story did undergo a couple title changes. You can read my review of The Mysterious Affair at Styles and find links about the subject here.

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Book Club Mom’s Author Update: News from JP McLean

Author name: JP McLean

Book to feature: Blood Mark

News to share: I’m pleased to share the news that Blood Mark, the first in a brand-new paranormal thriller series, will be released on October 19, 2021.

What if your lifelong curse is the only thing keeping you alive? Abandoned at birth, life has always been a battle for Jane Walker. She and her best friend, Sadie, spent years fighting to survive Vancouver’s cutthroat underbelly. That would have been tough enough without Jane’s mysterious afflictions: an intricate pattern of blood-red birthmarks that snake around her body and vivid, heart-wrenching nightmares that feel so real she wakes up screaming.

After she meets the first man who isn’t repulsed by her birthmarks, Jane thinks she might finally have a chance at happiness. Her belief seems confirmed as the birthmarks she’s spent her life so ashamed of magically begin to disappear. Yet, the quicker her scarlet marks vanish, the more lucid and disturbing Jane’s nightmares become—until it’s impossible to discern her dreams from reality, and Jane comes to a horrifying realization:

The nightmares that have plagued her since childhood are actually visions of real people being stalked by a deadly killer. And all this time, her birthmarks have been the only things protecting her from becoming his next victim.

Brief bio and other books: JP (Jo-Anne) McLean has received honourable mentions from the Whistler Independent Book Awards and the Victoria Writers Society. She lives with her husband on Denman Island, which is nestled between the coast of British Columbia and Vancouver Island. Her other titles include the seven-book series, The Gift Legacy.

Website and social media links: 

Website: jpmcleanauthor.com
Facebook: @JPMcLeanBooks
Twitter: @jpmcleanauthor
Goodreads: J.P. McLean
Instagram: jpmcleanauthor

Are you working on a new book? Have you won an award or a writing contest? Did you just update your website? Maybe you just want to tell readers about an experience you’ve had. Book Club Mom’s Author Update is a great way to share news and information about you and your books.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for more information.

Open to all authors – self-published, indie, big-time and anything in between. Author submissions are limited to one per author in a six-month period.

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Audiobook Review: Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

Talking to Strangers
Malcolm Gladwell

Rating: 5 out of 5.

How do we make sense of people we don’t know? We might think we can read the strangers we meet, but sometimes we get it wrong. Using examples from history and the news, Malcolm Gladwell shows how and why we make these mistakes.

The book begins with the Sandra Bland case. In 2015, Bland, a young African American woman, was stopped by a police officer in Texas for a traffic violation. Based on his preliminary interaction, the officer feared an aggressive confrontation. The situation quickly got out of hand. Bland was arrested and jailed and three days later, she committed suicide in her jail cell.

Before World War II, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was sure he could accurately read Adolf Hitler, so he scheduled a series of face-to-face meetings. Afterwards, Chamberlain told the world that Hitler would not invade Europe, because Hitler had given his word and had even signed a paper saying so. Fidel Castro fooled the CIA and flipped many American agents during the 1980s, much to the shock of the United States. Bernie Madoff duped investors out of $64.8 billion in the largest Ponzi scheme in history. How could these things happen?

One of the reasons (not the Sandra Bland case, that’s more a case of a tragic misreading) is that human beings are wired to default to truth: most of us want to believe. We wouldn’t be able to function as a society if we thought everyone was lying. And most of the time, the strangers we meet do tell the truth. Psychologist Tim Levine, who has conducted comprehensive studies of human behavior, explains why. “What we get in exchange for being vulnerable to an occasional lie is efficient communication and social coordination,” says Levine. In other words, “the cost of doing business.”

We’re also conditioned to believe facial expressions. Smiles mean happy, frowns mean mad, furtive eyes mean lying, etc. That doesn’t always work. And sometimes the undetected lies are at great cost. Gladwell looks at how former Penn State football coach and convicted sex offender Jerry Sandusky fooled school administrators and the public. And why Larry Nassar, team physician of the USA Gymnastics women’s national team, abused girls and women for years before he was convicted.

But what about the Amanda Knox case? Knox, an exchange student in Italy, was convicted of murdering her roommate in 2007. She spent nearly four years in an Italian prison before courts overturned her conviction. Why was she convicted? Because, despite a complete lack of evidence, she didn’t behave the way we believed someone in her situation should have behaved. She wasn’t serious enough and so the courts, and the tabloids, thought she was lying.

On college campuses, young people also struggle to understand the strangers they meet at parties, particularly when alcohol mixes into their interactions. Gladwell looks at consent as it applies to the 2015 sexual assault case against Stanford University freshman Brock Turner.

And in a fascinating look at depression and suicide, Gladwell explains the theory of coupling, the idea that certain settings and circumstances, lead to situations, including suicide, that otherwise would not occur. How does this connect to the other examples? We may misread others because we don’t understand the coupling circumstances.

This book was fascinating. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Gladwell, and supplemented with the print version. The audiobook was produced to resemble a podcast, using actual interviews from the cases cited. Gladwell does a great job explaining each case, the theories and tying up the examples. I’m sure I will read more books by Gladwell and highly recommend Talking to Strangers.

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Who’s That Indie Author? Miriam Hurdle

Author Name: Miriam Hurdle

Genre: Poetry and Children’s Books

Books: Songs of Heartstrings: Poems of Gratitude and Beatitude and Tina Lost in a Crowd

Brief Bio: I write poetry, flash fiction, short stories, and children’s stories. I’m retired after two years of counseling, fifteen years of teaching, and ten years of school administration. During my retirement, I enjoy gardening, painting, photography, and traveling, especially going to visit my granddaughters.

What got you started as a writer? After I finished college in Hong Kong, I wrote children’s books as part of my job in a literacy company. In 2016, I started blogging with the desire to share my cancer recovery journey. The blogging took me to write about my travel notes, flash fiction, gardening, and poetry. I compiled the poems written in two years to publish my first poetry collection.

What difficult experience has helped you as a writer? I think the ten years of my first marriage, the five years being separated from my daughter, and my cancer experience made me look at life differently and helped me as a writer.

Have you ever participated in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)? If so, how many times and what was your experience? I have participated in the NaNoWriMo 2017, and the NaNoWriMo Camp in July 2020. November is not a convenient month for me to make a commitment to write every day because the Thanksgiving week is a family time. I completed the word count in 2017, but the last one-third of the story is messy. July is a better time to write, and I could use what I wrote in 2020.

What advice would you give a new indie author hoping to publish a book? My advice would be:

  1. Write what you’re passionate about and write freely,
    as if nobody will read it.
  2. Read aloud what you write to see if YOU like it.
  3. Take a few online writing courses to refresh your writing skills.
  4. Do research to get a bird’s eye view of writing, editing,
    publishing, and marketing.
  5. Have a good or professional editing of your book for the publication.

What has been the biggest challenge for you during Covid?  The biggest challenge during Covid was not being able to see my granddaughters. I missed being with my daughter for her childbirth for my second granddaughter. I didn’t see my younger granddaughter until she was eight months old. On my first visit, it took her several days to warm up with me. In fact, studies show that babies born during Covid take a while to get used to the social contact.

What are you reading right now? I’m reading my blogging friend Elizabeth Gauffreau’s new book Grief Songs: Poems of Love. I should be done reading it by the time this interview is posted.

Would you rather laugh or cry over a book? I would rather laugh over a book with a pleasant sense of humor. I have plenty of experiences that remind me of the tears.

Have you ever climbed a tree to read a book? I grew up in a city full of skyscrapers rather than trees, so I have never climbed a tree to read. I have had no experience of climbing trees.

Have you ever dropped a book in the tub, in a pool or in the ocean? I read Kindle books on my phone. I once left my phone in the pocket and put the jacket in the washer. It almost gave me a heart attack, not because of the books, but my contacts. It makes me very conscientious about holding a phone in the tub at home or in the spa at the gym.

Could you live in a tiny house? From childhood to young adult, I lived with my family in a tiny apartment in Hong Kong. After forty-some years of living in good sizes of houses, it would take a big adjustment to live in a tiny house.

What are the small things that make you happy? The smallest things are when my older granddaughter called me “grandma,” asking me to do things with her, and when my younger granddaughter warmed up with me and let me hold her.

Website and social media links:
Website/Blog: theshowersofblessings.com
Amazon Author Page: Miriam-Hurdle
Goodreads: Miriam Hurdle
Twitter: @mhurdle112
Facebook: Miriam-Hurdle-Author

Are you an indie or self-published author?  Do you want to build your author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

Book Review: Elizabeth and Monty: the Untold Story of Their Intimate Friendship by Charles Casillo

Elizabeth and Monty: the Untold Story of Their Intimate Friendship
Charles Casillo

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I’ve always been interested in Hollywood glamour during the 1940s and 1950s, so when I saw this book at our library, I grabbed it. Most everyone knows about Elizabeth Taylor, her legendary beauty and her eight marriages. I’d heard of Montgomery Clift, remembered him as handsome and that the two costarred in some films, but I was curious about their relationship.

Elizabeth and Monty is a well-researched biography of Taylor and Clift and a history of their friendship. Although at times repetitive and a little cheesy, I enjoyed reading about their backgrounds and relationship.

They developed an intense emotional frienship and, even during gaps when they didn’t see each other, they were closely bound. Over time, Elizabeth became more of a protector, as Monty struggled.

Elizabeth and Monty first met in 1951, on the set of A Place in the Sun. Elizabeth was already a beauty at seventeen and Monty, thirty-one, was an established and handsome star. Despite the age difference, the two were drawn to each other emotionally. And Monty, one of the first method actors, helped Elizabeth understand her character in the film. They were a gorgeous couple and Hollywood loved promoting them as one, but Monty was gay. Elizabeth fell in love with him anyway and hoped for more.

Casillo does a good job explaining how, during this time, homosexuality was mostly closeted and especially taboo in Hollywood. Many gay men married women and kept the image of being husbands and family men, forced to hide their sexuality. Elizabeth’s father was a closeted gay man and perhaps this experience made her more sensitive to Monty’s situation. In addition, both Elizabeth and Monty had sheltered childhoods and domineering mothers.

Monty developed an early dependency on alcohol and drugs and, after a devastating car crash in 1956 altered his appearance, he descended into alcoholism and addiction. Monty never fully recovered physically or emotionally and struggled to find work, but Elizabeth helped get him roles. He began acting strangely in public and with friends and was unreliable on the sets of new films, often arriving late and drinking all day. He died in 1966 at forty-five.

During this time, Elizabeth continued to make films, including Giant, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly, Last Summer and Cleopatra. And she married, a lot! First to Conrad Hilton, Jr., then Michael Wilding, Mike Todd, Eddie Fisher (big scandal!), Richard Burton, John Warner and Larry Fortensky. Elizabeth had many health issues, including alcoholism and drug addiction and was constantly featured in gossip magazines. In her later years, she was an HIV/AIDS activist, had her own fragrance and jewelry brands and supported Jewish and Zionist causes. She had four children and died in 2011 at seventy-nine.

If you’re looking for an easy, fast and fun read about Hollywood and a couple famous actors from the 40s and 50s, I think you’ll like Elizabeth and Monty.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Book Club Mom interview with Ausoma, social media consulting for authors, on using YouTube

Hi Everyone,

I’m talking with Sue Canfield, Chief Social Media Officer & Marketing Consultant at Ausoma, sharing my experience setting up a YouTube channel and posting videos. Here’s a snip of the interview.

You can read the rest at:


I hope you’ll stop by!

Scary Story Spotlight: I Remember You: A Ghost Story by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir

My blogging friend Cathy over at 746 Books wrote this post about I Remember You: A Ghost Story by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir. First published in 2012, it is the Winner of the Icelandic Crime Fiction Award.

Here’s the book blurb:

“In an isolated village in the Icelandic Westfjords, three friends set to work renovating a rundown house. But soon, they realize they are not as alone as they thought. Something wants them to leave, and it’s making its presence felt. Meanwhile, in a town across the fjord, a young doctor investigating the suicide of an elderly woman discovers that she was obsessed with his vanished son. When the two stories collide, the terrifying truth is uncovered.

In the vein of Stephen King and John Ajvide Lindqvist, this horrifying thriller, partly based on a true story, is the scariest novel yet from Yrsa Sigurdardóttir, who has taken the international crime fiction world by storm.”

Here’s what Cathy says,

In I Remember You, (Sigurdardóttir) takes inspiration from the heritage of Icelandic literature, funneling ancient ghost stories into an exploration of modern Icelandic society, exploring social care, financial upheaval and modern relationships, all tied up in a satisfying detective yarn.

Do you know about Yrsa Sigurdardóttir? In addition to writing international bestsellers, she is director of one of Iceland’s largest engineering firms. Several of her books are currently in film production.

What scary books or stories are your favorites? I checked out a copy of I Remember You from the library and I hope to read it before Halloween.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Five literary Halloween costumes to get your party (or work) conversations going!

Are you dressing up for Halloween to take your kids out or answer the door? Heading to a party? Does your workplace encourage costumes? Although there’s no pressure at my library job to dress up on Halloween, people do dress up. I will be working that weekend and I’m thinking of something low-key to wear. I’ve dug up this post from a few years ago to inspire me.

There is plenty of time to plan, so if you’re looking for costume ideas for work or play, consider these literary ones:

Ernest Hemingway

Since bushy beards are the rage right now, guys with facial hair, grab a big turtleneck and you’re almost there! A large personality and fishing pole as a prop would finish the look!

Ayn Rand

Even if you haven’t read The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged, you can always look like this controversial literary figure. Comb your hair to the side. No makeup required. I couldn’t find a better free image on the internet, but you can watch this YouTube video to get into characgter.

Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

Although Truman Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe, not Audrey Hepburn, to play Holly in the movie, Hepburn made that movie memorable. Pull out your classic black dress, put your hair up high under a fabulous hat and you’re on your way.

Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Atticus is one of my favorite literary characters and I don’t believe Harper Lee meant him to be anything but great, despite the traits she sketched out in Go Set a Watchman. Put on a searsucker three-piece suit, add a tie and some horn-rimmed glasses, and look serious, like Gregory Peck.

Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Find a gauzy tea dress, some pearls and an elaborate floppy hat and you’re almost there. This picture of Mia Farrow as Daisy will help you practice your doe-eyed expression.

What are you wearing for trick or treat? Would you have the courage to dress up in a costume for work? Leave a comment!

Note – for those who are virtuosos with the block editor, I tried to have the image captions appear on the display, but you can only see them if you click on the individual image. Anyone know a way around this? Also, does anyone know how to change the way the dividers look? Am I stuck with the double line because of my page design? Thanks!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

On YouTube – coloring and talking books

Hi Everyone,

I’m over on YouTube today, coloring and talking books. Also showing you some vintage marbles. Hope you’ll stop by!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!