Finding Poe

I’m not sure why I have this novel apart from the Poe reference. It’s not on my list of titles I got review copies of nor do I remember buying it.

Still, last October, in honor of the month of Edgar Poe’s death, I read it.

Review: Finding Poe: A Tale of Inspiration and Horror, Leigh M. Lane, 2012.

The blurbs call this a gothic. And, indeed, it is. We have a woman in danger, our protagonist Karina Brantley, and we have a sinister structure, a lighthouse.

But that’s just the start. Karina Brantley isn’t some innocent governess nor unmarried. Her increasingly mad husband, always called by just his surname, was a nobleman back in England and she was a Lady – that is until Brantley murdered a servant trying to blackmail him and walled him up alive. Karina is complicit in that crime.

Brantley takes them to a miserable lighthouse off the coast of New England and seems obsessed by it, taking its measurements and counting the number of its bricks. He becomes increasingly abusive.

There is a hallucinatory, nightmare quality to this novel . . .  because it’s full of Karina’s nightmares. The novel opens on a train with Karina waking up from a dream, and she does not confide in Brantley about them, and it will be hard to tell, in these nested dreams, what is happening at times, but Lane keeps the story interesting with those section and isn’t merely obfuscating her story.

In one such dream, which has her going on an excursion to shore, we meet with situations and characters alluding to various Poe stories, and part of the novel’s fun is picking up on these distorted allusions.

One night, after being sent by her husband to get supplies on shore, she encounters treasure hunters and learns her home is considered hunted.

And when Brantley tries to kill her, and later, kills himself, Karina finds herself delivering a sealed letter of her husband to one Mr. Poe in Baltimore.

And so begins the rest of the novel with insane asylums, truly creepy passengers on a train, and an eventual encounter with Poe whose life is threatened by a conspiracy.

I’ve linked to the “special edition” of the novel which, glancing at it on Amazon, seems to merely link the Poe allusions to the source stories, but true Poe fans won’t need those hyperlinks, just like they know the opening set up of the lighthouse is itself an allusion to a story fragment left by Poe at his death, “The Lighthouse”.

Lane has said the novel is a sort of detective story, a puzzle with a solution. The ending is unexpected, but I think I understand Lane’s solution which is yet another allusion to a Poe work. There is an internal logic in the book. If you like dreamy narratives of menace and confusion or just the works of Poe, you will probably find this novel of interest.

8 thoughts on “Finding Poe

  1. Bookstooge July 8, 2022 / 7:07 pm

    Have you read any of the King in Yellow mythos? I enjoy that quite a bit and many of the terms you use for this book apply to KIY, so I am wondering if I’d like this.
    Horror isn’t my thing overall so I am very picky about trying out new stuff. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    • marzaat July 8, 2022 / 7:29 pm

      The Chambers comparison was not in my mind.
      I have read The King in Yellow and some other authors using his mythos.

      The tone of Chambers and Lane is fairly different. They are most similar in “The Yellow Sign” from Chambers.

      The novel it most resembles that I’ve read is Zelazny’s and Saberhagen’s The Black Throne though Lane’s novel is much shorter, less burlesque, doesn’t have as cosmic and sweeping story. It’s also uses Poe material in a more complicated and direct way.

      Lane is more oblique in her use of Poe and, as I said, nightmarish.

      I reviewed The Black Throne.

      • Bookstooge July 8, 2022 / 7:38 pm

        Thanks. with these 2 comments of yours I’m thinking I’d better not try this.

    • marzaat July 8, 2022 / 7:30 pm

      I would say Lane’s novel is more creepy and disorienting than horrific. There’s not much gore — but plenty of abuse suffered by our heroine.

  2. EG July 11, 2022 / 8:55 am

    I don’t know if I’ll ever get the chance to read “Finding Poe,” but it does sound interesting.

    Speaking of that “Lighthouse” fragment of Poe’s, I remember reading it some years ago and being struck by how plain and simple the language and style were in comparison to that of his published works. Well, it was of course just a rough first draft, and presumably he would have put in all his usual ornate, sophisticated language when he revised it.

    Another favourite author of mine is Robert E. Howard. In contrast to Poe, most of his fragments and drafts I’ve read are like fully polished prose. Really remarkable.

    As for “The King in Yellow,” there are two or three really quite brilliant stories or chapters in it, and the rest, in my opinion, fall completely flat and gave me the impression the author was just going through the motions or was in a rush to complete his stories so he could fill an entire book.

    I know H.P. Lovecraft and other famous authors spoke very highly of the book, however, and regarded it as an important influence.

    • marzaat July 11, 2022 / 5:25 pm

      Poe’s fragment is pretty plain. Robert Bloch finished the fragment in “The Lighthouse” (it’s in The Man Who Called Himself Poe which I’ve reviewed). I’ve also seen, but have never read, an entire anthology devoted to finishing Poe’s fragment. Given that it’s Poe, I suspect most of the authors, like Bloch, assumed Poe had something fantastical or mysterious in mind, but it’s hard to tell from the fragment.

      Your opinion of The King in Yellow matches mine. It’s about half a good book. I suspect it appeals to the sort of reader/author who likes to follow up various background allusions starting with Ambrose Bierce and the mysterious hints Chambers drops. And, of course, there’s the whole idea of the maddening play. But the best stories in the book, “The Repairer of Reputations” and “The Yellow Sign” don’t need that background for effect. Yes, it’s influential, but Chambers is definitely not one of my favorite weird writers.

      There actually is a Chambers novel waiting for me to review: The Red Star. I can’t say it would be of interest to anyone not a Chambers fan or, like me, interested in how World War One appears in fantastic literature.

  3. Mark July 14, 2022 / 11:38 am

    Another enjoyable review!

    I was wondering; I’ve written a couple of pulpy, British noir, Lovecraftian novels myself, would you be interested in a review copy? And if so, how do I get it to you?

    • marzaat July 16, 2022 / 12:29 pm

      Thanks for reading.

      Those so sound like the sort of thing I’d like, but . . . I can’t promise when they’ll get reviewed. It’s also likely that the number of reviews here will become sparser for reasons I won’t get into.

      If you still want to send them to me, kindle editions would be best. That way you won’t be potentially wasting money on postage and print copies. They can be sent to marzaat at pm dot me.

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