Whether you're a fan of Edgar Allan Poe or not, you have to admit that the mystery community owes him a debt of gratitude for basically inventing the modern detective story. So it's fitting that, on the bicentennial of his birth in 1809, the Mystery Writers of America honor him with this wonderful collection of classic tales by Poe along with brief essays from 20 prominent MWA members.
Among the many stories included here are such favorites as "The Cask of Amontillado," "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Pit and the Pendulum," "The Gold Bug" and, of course, "The Raven."
In addition, there are some lesser-known stories (at least to me) such as "William Wilson," "Manuscript Found in a Bottle," "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar," and "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym," and others.
What makes this book special, however, are the words of tribute--some light-hearted and some serious--offered by the modern-day writers, many of whom have won one or more of the Edgar Awards presented each year by the MWA.
Here are a few brief examples: Michael Connelly, who edited this book, tells of being inspired by Poe to write his mystery, The Poet, in which the killer leaves behind lines from Poe poems; Lawrence Block writes about how he broke the curse of not winning an Edgar by eventually marrying a woman whose mother's maiden name was Poe; and Laura Lippman describes her experience of actually witnessing a visit by the Poe Toaster at Poe's Baltimore gravesite.
In addition, the late Edward Hoch writes that his love of the short story (and he published some 975 of them!) was inspired by Poe; Joseph Wambaugh pens a poetic take-off of "The Raven"; Jeffrey Deaver also uses poetry to highlight his discussion of how Poe has influenced the music genre and Laurie King complains facetiously about how Poe has usurped all the best mystery plot ideas. All in all, an enjoyable read on a dark and dreary night and a great gift idea for the Poe lover.