Ed & Edgar

my adventures in the cult of Poe

and other literary endeavours



Shakespeare Festival

We got a little bored with our summer, so my wife decided to throw a Shakespeare Festival in Jenkintown.  This Saturday night (July 25) from 6-7PM, I'll be discussing Shakespeare films and showing clips at the Hiway Theatre.  Afterwards, we'll all head over to Jenkintown Java (just a block away) to play Rogues and Arrant Knaves, a Shakespeare insult game. 

Then on Wed (July 29), beginning at 6:30 PM, the Shakespeare Festival gets underway in Jenkintown's town square.  There will be a live chess game (the pieces will all be human), theatre games, Shakes info from theatre companies and the ever-enticing more

So come on out for some Shakesfun.  All events are FREE. 


Haunted Poe Cabaret

Come one, come all. Brat Productions is getting the ball rolling for our Haunted Poe production with a Poe Cabaret on Thu, June 25 at the Latvian Society Cultural Center at 7th and Spring Garden (right across the street from the Philly Poe House). More info and tickets here:

As a prelude to the world premiere of the Edgar Allan Poe-based production HAUNTED POE (October 1 - November 1, 2009), Brat Productions invites audiences to enter the world of the master of the macabre with a thrilling, chilling evening of entertainment. Mistress of Ceremonies Dame Darcy helms a raft of performers that include Drew Mills (Blood Feathers), Helen McKenna-Uff (Poe impersonator and Ranger at the Edgar Allan Poe House), Fern Knight, Calamity Rose (12-year-old puppeteer from Puppet Uprising), Yellow Humphrey, and a sneak preview of the much-anticipated HAUNTED POE.

I'll also be on hand to tell you the Philly Poe story.

There's also a Haunted Poe Doll Crafting Workshop with the fabulous Dame Darcy during the day from 1-3. Should be lots of fun:

Brat Productions invites audiences to enter the world of the master of the macabre with a special doll crafting workshop led by artist and performer Dame Darcy. The two-hour workshop will allow participants to craft dolls related to the women in Poes life and stories, such as Virginia Clemm, Sarah Elmira Royster, Lenore ("The Raven") and Madeline Usher ("The Fall of the House of Usher"). Participants will also have the opportunity to have their work displayed in the production of Haunted Poe in October. The workshop fee covers materials, light snacks and admission to the 9PM performance of Murder Ballads, Shanties and other Poe-etics, hosted by Dame Darcy.


Poe's Night at the Smithsonian

Abigail Tucker has a piece on the Bicentennial of Edgar Allan Poe at the Smithsonian Magazine website and the Poe War is prominently featured. I like the wording of the last paragraph:

After the last Great Poe Debate, the crowd voted Philadelphia the rightful heir to Poe’s remains; there will likely be a rematch in Boston this December. Yet wherever we decide Poe’s body belongs, we probably won’t let him rest. He’s been buried for more than a century and a half, but, like the victim in the “Tell-Tale Heart,” doesn’t seem quite dead.

Rightful heir has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?


Hogdoggin' Virtual Motorcycle Rally 

The Ed & Edgar blog has some seriously crazy shit going on today.  As part of the Hogdoggin' Virtual Motorcycle Rally, the Ed & Edgar blog has a guest post from Anthony Neil Smith, author of some seriously cool crime fiction, Yellow Medicine, Psychosomatic, The Drummer and the forthcoming Hogdoggin'. He's also the editor of the excellent Plots with Guns, an online journal for "noir and transgressive fiction," which has a new issue out right now that propels noir into a bleak, bleak future: Plots with Ray Guns. But today we're here to get psyched for his next novel, Hogdoggin', which I am very pumped to read.

As the HVM Rally has progressed, other writers have been building a story that features Smith's character, Billy Lafitte, from his novel Yellow Medicine and the new Hogdoggin'. Smith posts these stories at his blog, Crimedog One, the Virtual Dive Bar,and then he writes a continuation to be posted on the participants' blogs. Each guest blog is like a bar or store in a little shithole town. A motorcycle gang rides into town and the fun begins.  You can read the kick off post, and all the rest at Crimedog One. Today is day ten of the Rally. You can read my contribution there and Smith's continuation below, along with some very kind words about me from Smith.  Enjoy!

In the Last Episode, Lafitte got some guidance from the mysterious Patricia Abbott…and then we took a siesta.

Hours after leaving the Bibliothecary, Lafitte still felt…well, the word was “haunted” but he hated the very idea. He’d watched some Ghost Hunters in cheap hotel rooms on the run before hooking up with Steel God’s crew, but he only saw a couple of things that moved him beyond eye-rolling. And those things were too blurry, too quick, too easy to explain away.

So he sat in the Dive Bar eating a terrible Philly Cheesesteak (Smith told him it was fresh made in the kitchen, but the center was still icy) with goosebumps and a need to keep looking over his shoulder. Outside, a black cat stood at the edge of the door and kept peeking in, mewling.


Startled him, coming from his blindside. He nearly choked but recognized the voice, got it back together. Kristal, his main squeeze in the club. Not that she was necessarily his type, or the most loyal, or the best at giving head. But she genuinely seemed to like being with him even in his foulest moods, and he liked to hear her talk. 

She had that Serious Relationship look going now. “You can’t keep walling me off from you for the whole rally. I mean, shit, baby.”

He put the sandwich on the plate. Waited for more. 

“Guys start seeing you treating me that way, they’ll be on me like flies on sweet pussy, goddamn it.” 

He thought he could hear her heart beating, an awful rhythm that filled him with dread. It hadn’t before, but it seemed like even the slightest thing sent him reeling with melancholy after visiting that weird store. 

He said, “Not now.” 

She laughed loud. Some of the other still-drowsy bikers started looking, hoping for a show. Lafitte didn’t need the attention. He was under enough scrutiny as it was. 

“If not now, when? Tonight when you want in my pants? Next week when all this has gone away? When?” 

He reached for her shoulder, pulled her in much rougher than he had anticipated. Seethed, “Don’t you have a date?” 

Chilled her, you could tell. What, like she really thought he didn’t know? 

He remembered his ex-wife, Ginny, once reading to the kids, and this line stuck in his head: “And this maiden she lived with no other thought/Than to love and be loved by me.” 

Sure as hell didn’t describe Kristal. Unless fucking other bikers was a “cry for attention” or some shit. 

He sipped warm beer. Never took his eyes off her.

She crossed her arms. “You son of a bitch. You piece of--” 

“Look, chick, you’re the one came onto me, remember. You’re the one climbing the rungs. How about that? If you want to ride with me, do it. Ride with me. But here’s what not to do.” He inched in closer. “I’m not your clay. I’m not soft. I’m not a show-off. And if you really want to be as high and mighty as I think you do, I’ll bet you could learn a few things from me. Understand?” 

She acted like she wasn’t listening. Looking off, sulking. But he knew she wasn’t that stupid. Just an act.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” 

She said, “You can take that and shove it up--” 

Lafitte shoved his plate away. It clacked into the pint glass. He pushed himself off the barstool. “We’ll do this later after you’ve thought it over. I’ve got to roll now.” 

And he was out the door.

Like a dark cloud hanging over him that afternoon. Like a black bird on his shoulder trying to get into his head, but he couldn’t figure out why. 

Gently rapping… 

Steel God sent him to bust a couple of heads in the Skull Patrol crew, two guys who kept hanging around the funeral home. One broke in and was caught having sex with a dead woman prepped for a funeral tomorrow. That wasn’t anyway to keep the lawhounds quiet. This one needed “internal policing.” 

But Lafitte wasn’t into it. He thought, you know, a beating might keep them down for a couple of days, but would it put the fear of god into them? Would it be a bellweather beating for them? He thought not. And the idea of that filled him…with….gloom. Goddamn, what was he, a 19th Century poet all the sudden? 

“Having a bad day?” 

Right beside him, wasn’t there before. Made Lafitte yelp and leap a foot in the air. The weird fellow from the Bibliothecary, Ed Something. He was smoking a pipe, sporting a wiry old-timey beard, and a costume like Lafitte had seen in those British goth flicks from the 60’s. The ones that all had Christopher Lee in them.

“Motherfucker can get killed pulling shit like that to me, man. What the fuck?” 

Ed smiled. “I’m not really that scared of death. It’s a temporary failure. I’m more afraid of oblivion.” 

“Say what now?” 

“Mind if I walk with you?” 

Lafitte thought about saying no, but then, if this guy was as hardcore goth as he looked, maybe this wouldn’t bother him so much. 

“If you don’t mind watching some guys get the blood beat out of him, no problem.” 

“Eh,” Ed said. “Is that all you’ve got?” 

Like he was reading Lafitte’s mind. He thought about the small slithering dark thing that left the Bibliothecary at the same time he had. “I know, it’s not very original, but it’ll have to do. I’m just not feeling…inventive today.” 

“Tell me, what did these offenders do to deserve their fate?” 

Sure, why not? See if it’s all an act. 

“They fuck the dead. I mean stone-cold dead, embalmed, sticking their cocks in there. I don’t think they care if it’s man or woman, neither. They just like that cold, dead flesh clutching their peckers.” 

Ed laughed. Puffed. Then said, “Lucky you ran into me today then. Come on, I’ve got something that might be right up your alley.” 

Several hours later, after Ed and Lafitte removed the last of the dirt from the second coffin in the patch behind the Bibliothecary, they opened the box and helped the obviously terrified necrophiliac out of the grave. 

His fingernails were ripped, bloody. His teeth chattered. He smelled like piss and fear. On the ground nearby, his friend sat on the ground, arms tight around his knees, rocking back and forth.

When he first saw the get-up, Lafitte had said, “So, this is how you spend your weekends?” 

Ed winked and said, “I had nothing to do with it. Believe it or not, it was all you.” 

The necrophiliac held his shattered fingers to his chest. 

Lafitte got in his face. “Didn’t like that, did you?” 

Got a head shake.

“Didn’t think I was coming back, did you?” 

Another head shake. 

“You keep out of the funeral home, cemetery, old folks’ home, and hospital until the rally is over. We catch you, then, well, there’s plan B.” 

Lafitte whistled, and around the corner of the building came a six-foot tall hirsute tranny in a schoolgirl’s outfit. 

“You guys been to the massage parlor in town yet? Wilma here works there. And she said she wouldn’t mind a couple of cold ones, just not as cold as you two like it.” 

The guys didn’t hear the full joke as they were already on their feet, halfway across the cornfield behind the bookstore. 

Lafitte shook Wilma’s hand, said. “Thanks. I think that worked.” 

Wilma said, “If it’s all the same to you, I think I’ll go chase em. I’m bound to catch one.” 

Lafitte waved him onward. He and Ed stood watching Wilma chase down his latest victims. 

Ed said, “See? Melancholy can be fun.”

Lafitte shrugged. “Whatever. I feel like a margarita and some Jimmy Buffett tunes. You in?” 

Ed puffed his pipe. “Sure. Sounds like…” (*sniff*) “…fun.” 


Ed Pettit knows Poe. The Poe of Philadelphia, mind you. That’s the real enchilada. Baltimore? Yeah, right. Poe Light, suckers. 

Honestly, I’m not clear on the difference much, but Edward is, and you can find about out that and plenty of other Poe related facts and events at his blog, The Ed & Edgar Blog at the Bibliothecary.

 In addition to all things Poe, Ed’s reviews can turn the lightbulb on over your head, and get you excited about a book at the same time. For instance, his review of Once Were Copsby Bruen, in which he makes this comparison:

Noir master Jim Thompson worked this scenario in a couple of his greatest novels, The Killer Inside Me and Pop. 1280, in which small-town sheriffs use their guile to mask dark, murderous hearts. Bruen plows the same terrain, but Thompson’s sheriffs are mere farm boys compared to Shea. His killing fury is buried so deep inside him that, when unleashed, it erupts like a cold storm and he loses consciousness of his actions… 

Or in discussing a possible theme of Guthrie’s Savage Night

…Guthrie explores a noir sensibility of Family. The ever tightening bonds of union, whether genetic or by marriage, that normally threaten to crush, must here remain close so the family can stop from being crushed by others. The family that kills together stays together. Or at least stays in as many pieces as possible. 

How can you not want to read these two books now? I’ve read Savage Night, but now I want to read it again with Ed’s thoughts in mind. 

There are serious chops at work here. And Ed doesn’t pull punches. In describing the “novel on verse” of Toby Barlow’s Sharp Teeth, he writes: 

I wasn’t very impressed with the verse, but I’ll admit I’m not a lover of contemporary free verse. It’s a very tricky game to play. There’s another Robert Frost line about how writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down. I’m not as disdainful as that, but I do think it’s hard to recognize the difference between free verse and just a bunch of unfinished sentences. The key is the internal rhythm. 


So thanks for coming along on the rally, sir. I’d be curious to know what you think about my books, including Hogdoggin’. Since you like to get under a book’s skin (bad metaphor? Sorry), I wonder what you would make of the troubled mind of Billy Lafitte. And then I wonder if I could ever dare to be happy again once I found out. 

See for yourselves. Hogdoggin’ Monday, June 1st, is just over a week away. Let’s do Poe, one of the fathers of crime fiction, proud by telling the publishing world, “Unsympathetic characters and noir? Hell yes, we’ll buy that!” 

Tomorrow, Jedidiah Ayres serves up a mighty greasy lunch for us at his diner, Hardboiled Wonderland

Tonight on the Main Stage: The Horrorpops, “What’s Under My Bed?” 


Cadet Poe

I'll be at the Philly Poe House today at 2PM for this event:

Saturday, May 23, 2:00 PM
As part of the ongoing celebration of Poe’s Bicentennial, Tony McGowan, an English professor at West Point, will speak on Poe’s military experience and how it influenced Poe’s writing.

Poe has many connections to military life. His grandfather, David Poe, was a Deputy Quartermaster in Baltimore during the American Revolution. As a youth Edgar Poe was a lieutenant in the Richmond Junior Volunteers, which had the honor of receiving Lafayette. Poe joined the U.S. Army under the name “Edgar Perry”, advancing to sergeant-major in less than two years, serving as an artificer. His officers recommended him for West Point, where he stayed for just a matter of months. In 1831, he published his third book, Poems, which was dedicated to the cadets at West Point. This event is free, will be at the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site at 7th and Spring Garden Streets in Philadelphia and is sponsored by the National Park Foundation.

Hope to see you there.


Haunted Poe

Things are coming together for the Poe show by Brat Productions, Haunted Poe, coming this October in Philadelphia. I just had a meeting with all the designers who are working on it and gave them a little primer on Poe and his time in Philly. You can click on the Haunted Poe icon in the top left corner of my site to receive more info. Here's the show in a nutshell:


World Premiere

Limited Halloween Engagement

October 1 – November 1, 2009

38 Jackson Street

Philadelphia, PA

Brat Productions, the Barrymore Award-winning company (Three Chord Fiction), is back to reveal their latest theatrical adventure, Haunted Poe. 160 years after his death, Edgar Allan Poe returns from the grave to haunt Philadelphia with his most terrifying tales and poems. You move from room to room. Down twisting hallways. Through the heart of darkness. Into the unknown.

Presented in a 10,000 square foot warehouse, Haunted Poe features scenes from “The Tell-tale Heart,” “The Raven,” “The Black Cat,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Pit and the Pendulum”…and much more. In each room, around every corner, another scare awaits. It’s literature, history and theatre—in the form of a haunted house. Experience the Master of the Macabre in the dread of night!

“Brat not only pushes the envelope, it licks it, slaps a stamp on it, and sends it to places no one has ever been to before.” – Philadelphia City Paper

Created by Madi Distefano, Brad Helm, Edward Pettit and Bruce Walsh

From an original concept by Michael Alltop

Tickets go on sale July 1. For more information, and to sign up for our email list, visit www.bratproductions.org

Haunted Poe has been funded by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage through the Philadelphia Theatre Initiative with additional funding from the Marketing Innovation Program.

You can also read a more detailed press release here, which starts with the headline: "POE’S BODY EXHUMED FROM BALTIMORE CEMETERY AND RETURNED TO PHILADELPHIA IN BRAT PRODUCTIONS’ HAUNTED POE."  Can't wait.


The other Edgar award

The Mystery Writers of America aren't the only ones to give out an Edgar award. The White House Correspondents Association has an Edgar A Poe Memorial Award that "honors excellence in news coverage of subjects and events of significant national or regional importance to the American people."

I thought this was odd, but then again, Poe was a practicing journalist for his entire writing career. But the award isn't named for that Edgar. It's named in honor of Edgar Allen Poe (yes, he spelled his middle name with an e), the New Orleans Times-Picayune reporter. Here's his AP obit from 1998:

Edgar Allen Poe , a longtime Washington correspondent and columnist for The Times-Picayune of New Orleans who covered presidents from Harry Truman to Bill Clinton, had died at the age of 92.
Poe died Saturday at his home in Arlington, Va.
Starting work for The Times-Picayune on Easter Sunday 1930, Poe covered many of the major stories of the century, including being an eyewitness aboard the USS Missouri to the Japanese surrender in September 1945 that ended World War II.
He became the only correspondent to serve simultaneously as president of the White House Correspondents Association and the National Gridiron Club.
"Edgar was one of those rare journalists who enjoyed a reputation for fairness among politicians of all views, and our readers benefited from his unusual access to the powerful,'' said Ashton Phelps Jr., publisher of The Times-Picayune . "He kept readers informed when Louisiana had some of the most powerful members of Congress and provided insight on issues important to the state and the region.''
Former President George Bush called Poe "one of the truly greats.''

"Today's adversarial and hostile journalism can learn much from his life and example,'' Bush said."A true gentleman, he will be missed by all with whom he came into contact.''
Poe attended every presidential convention between 1940 and 1988, except for 1944, when he was a war correspondent in the Pacific. He was one of the first journalists ashore after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.
After working The Mountain Eagle in his native Jasper, Ala., and then covering crime and sports in Alabama for The Birmingham News, he accepted an offer to work for The Times-Picayune.
He later worked for The Times-Picayune bureau in southern Mississippi and established himself as one of the newspaper's top political reporters. He moved to Washington in 1948 and was famed for his access to the powerful. Even during the darkest days of Watergate, when President Richard Nixon was at war with much of the media, he would talk to Poe.

"He is the perfect Southern gentleman,'' U.S. Sen. John Breaux, D-La., said of Poe.

Poe 's survivors include his wife, Frances; two sons, Edgar Allen Poe Jr. and Thomas L. Poe ; a sister, Elizabeth P. Kagle, of Jasper, Ala.; six granchildren and two great-grandchildren.

(The Poe scholar in me wants to correct the spelling of every one of those Allens.)

This year's winners of the award are Michael J. Berens and Ken Armstrong of the Seattle Times:

Berens and Armstrong won the Edgar A. Poe Memorial Award, which carries a $2,500 prize, for a three-part series in The Seattle Times that exposed the failure of hospitals in Washington state and across the country to control the deadly rise of the MRSA staph infection. Combining in-depth reporting and data analysis with the stories of victims and activists, the series explained the science and uncovered the public policies and corporate interests responsible for this epidemic. Online the series provided a searchable database, explained the reporters' methodology and invited reader comment.


What could you do with a Poe bust?

John Green won an MWA Edgar award for his novel, Paper Towns, and he posted this very funny video of what he will do with his award.  He has lots of other funny videos, too.


praying for smoke

I love this letter in the TLS edition of 4/22:

Praying, smoking

Sir, – Reviewing Sara Maitland’s A Book of Silence (April 17) Bernice Martin wonders if Maitland smokes while praying. A priest once said in my hearing that it was not all right to smoke while praying, but it was fine to pray while smoking. He was quoting, I guess, and I’d love to know who it was.

32 Dalton Road, Ipswich.

I've never heard the quotation, but it appears to be an old story. Me?I never smoke while praying, but I have been known to pray while smoking. I pray that my tobacco doesn't run out before I earn some more tobacco money.

Photo: myself in prayerful meditation (photo by Douglas Bovitt)


Ed & Edgar blog: Now with more content!

Because I don't want to jump back and forth between blogs anymore, I'm now consolidating the Bibliothecary blog into Ed & Edgar with a new subtitle: "my adventures in the Cult of Poe and other literary endeavours."  Makes sense to me.  The Biblio blog will remain on the site for your archive-searching pleasure

Read and enjoy.

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