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The Poe Papers: a tale of passion [Paperback]

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Item description for The Poe Papers: a tale of passion by Nancy Zaroulis...

"A macabre, terrifying thriller."-Library Journal

"A nightmare of sex, murder, and madness."-Kirkus Reviews

"Told with great power. . . . A stunning achievement."-The Boston Globe

"Nancy Zaroulis has a fierce sense of history. . . . A magnificent storyteller."-The Plain Dealer

"Fascinating. . . . It would be interesting to see what Alfred Hitchcock would do with this material."-Publishers Weekly

A woman with a secret of adulterous love in her past and a still-ravenous desire burning within her; a daughter who had grown to be her mother's rival in voluptuous beauty and rapacious lust; and the young man who comes to their old New England mansion on a scholar's visit-and is willing to do anything in exchange for the forbidden secret they possess-stays to be seduced body and soul.

Nancy Zaroulis is the author of five novels, as well as three Beacon Hill Mysteries, published under the pseudonym Cynthia Peale. Her sole nonfiction work, Who Spoke Up?, a history of the anti-Vietnam War movement, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. She lives with her family in Massachusetts. Visit Zaroulis at

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Item Specifications...

Pages   240
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.2" Width: 5.5" Height: 0.8"
Weight:   0.65 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Sep 1, 2007
Publisher   Pegasus Books
ISBN  1933648643  
ISBN13  9781933648644  

Availability  0 units.

More About Nancy Zaroulis

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Nancy Zaroulis is the author of five novels as well as three Beacon Hill mysteries, published under the pseudonym Cynthia Peale. Her sole nonfiction work, Who Spoke Up?, a history of the anti-Vietnam War movement, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. She lives with her family in Massachusetts. Visit Nancy at

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Mystery & Thrillers > General
2Books > Subjects > Mystery & Thrillers > Mystery > General

Reviews - What do customers think about The Poe Papers: a tale of passion?

Splendid; a diabolical delight  Nov 7, 2007
With the deceptive simplicity of art that is really art, Nancy Zaroulis has constructed a tale involving Edgar Allan Poe (whose name is curiously never mentioned) and his beloved "Annie"--Mrs. Charles Richmond--along with her daughter, who is named Lenore. The year is 1895. It is 46 years after Poe's death. The place is Lowell, Massachusetts. The narrator of the tale is a relatively young man, a connoisseur of the arts, both pictorial and literary, who sets out to visit a now elderly and secluded Mrs. Richmond with the idea of convincing her to allow him to peruse, publish, and possibly acquire "The Poe Papers" that he believes she has in her possession. His name too is never mentioned. Indeed he is an Edgar Allan Poe doppelganger of sorts somehow brought forward in time through supernatural fate.

He is an obsessed and a compromised narrator, somewhat in the manner of some of Poe's compromised narrators--Montresor in "The Cask Of Amontillado" comes to mind; indeed Montresor is mentioned on page 246. Zaroulis's protagonist also reminds me a bit of Humbert Humbert from Nabokov's Lolita in that he inadvertently reveals his not entirely sterling character as he narrates the story. In the present case we see early on by his almost savage dismissal of a poor beggar girl, and later by his employment of various machinations and dishonesties in his effort to gain the confidence of the widow Mrs. Richmond and her daughter (the "lost Lenore"?), that he is a morally challenged man. Somehow, however, with deftness of intent and mastery of characterization and plot, Zaroulis manages--as did Poe and Nabokov--to persuade the reader to identify with and find some sympathy for the obsessed and eventually weak-willed "unreliable narrator."

Zaroulis's technique may owe something to Henry James as well as to Poe. Her use of a quotation from the preface to James's "The Aspern Papers" suggests as much. Her careful foreshadowing of events so as to make them seem natural, almost inevitable, recalls the literary artistry of earlier times. Witness the unfortunate man who had come to Lowell previously seeking the Poe papers. We can guess at what he foreshadows. Witness the hellish artistry of Lenore so that we are given a glimpse of her character before we see her actions, allowing them to make reasonable literary sense. Witness the cat who scratches the protagonist. What can this foreshadow?

The period piece feel of New England in the late 19th century created by Zarouli seemed to me to be fully authentic; but even more authentic is the feel of the late 19th, early 20th century novel that she has created. Indeed I was in some manner reminded of Henry James's friend, Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome written a few years after the time of this novel with a similar setting. The Poe Papers combines easy reading with a certain understated elegance of style that I found myself admiring. Zaroulis knows well the old saying that easy writing makes for hard reading and vice-versa. She has her narrator spell it out for us: "Anyone who has ever tried to compose anything, no matter how trivial, will understand when I say that four or five hours at such work will leave one exhausted. Drawing out a story from one's mind as the spider draws the web from her body--spinning a tale--is the hardest work in the world." (pp. 148-149)

In a sense then this is a nineteenth century novel written in the twenty-first. The story itself is pure Edgar Allan Poe. It is a story of diabolical intent, so long that it a short novel. Undoubtedly part of what Zaroulis wanted to achieve was a novel in the manner and style of Poe. (I don't believe Poe ever wrote anything that could rightly be called a novel.) In this intent she has succeeded wonderfully. "The Poe Papers" is in frank imitation of Poe's macabre short stories especially in terms of form and content. Everything is artfully contrived to lead the reader to experience a catharsis through identification with the protagonist, a catharsis born of sin and guilt motivated by greed ending in something very...Poe-like. Yet there is no sense of "stretching" as is sometimes the case when a short story is made into a novel or novella. Zaroulis's patient, careful buildup only heightens our anticipation and provides us with the proper grounding for what is to follow. And when the denouement comes, it comes swiftly, and then the unraveling is quickened to what used to be called "the end." Ironically enough, the novel ends with a full colon and then some white pages.

Some quibbles: I was not able to see why Mrs. Richmond's daughter should be named Lenore. There is nothing in Poe's poem by that name that I could find that fits the character in this novel. Perhaps she is ironically named. However the "Annie" presented here is completely consistent with the character lauded in Poe's poem, "For Annie." However, Zaroulis's use of her likeness, as it were, is sinister and ironic. I was also a little dissatisfied that Zaroulis did not further develop the (strange!) sexual relationship between Lenore and the narrator. I kept imagining how Hollywood would do it in a movie. Still, Zaroulis's treatment--with one brief exception on page 158--is in keeping with the Victorian style in such matters, and of course Poe's tales were without overt sexuality. Finally, I wish Zaroulis would have cleaned up the vomit before that scene was played out! I kept smelling it and imagined that such an odor would dampen any enthusiasm.

In conclusion let me give the quote from Henry James mentioned above since it is Zaroulis's thematic touchstone for the novel and part of the psyche of her protagonist: "The historian, essentially, wants more documents than he can really use; the dramatist only wants more liberties than he can really take."

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