22 January 2010


The Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum & Other Tales of Mystery and Imagination, read by William Roberts. Offer available to customers worldwide, October 21-31, 2009 Only, courtesy of Naxos AudioBooks.
Length: 4 hrs and 54 min
Available at Audible.com and Amazon
ISBN: 978-9626342831

This collection contains some of the nineteenth-century author’s most popular and well-known stories. Master of the “grotesque and arabesque,” Poe wrote many stories that reflected his worst personal nightmare--premature burial. Those who thought only Basil Rathbone could narrate Poe are in for a surprise and a treat. The no-nonsense William Roberts narrates a production mercifully free of frills. No unnecessary music or sound effects interfere with the brilliance of the writing or the purity of the performance.

Included in this collection: 10 novellas and short stories:
  • The Pit and the Pendulum
  • The Tell Tale Heart
  • The Masque of the Red Death
  • Ligeia
  • The Raven
  • The Cask of Amontillado
  • The Fall of the House of Usher
  • The Black Cat
  • The Premature Burial
  • The facts in the Case of M. Valdemar
Some interesting common themes seem to emerge in this collection: premature burial; murders where bodies are walled up; murders committed by the narrator who is then betrayed by his own imagination or by spirits coming from the world of the dead.

The readings are well done. There is suitably spooky music between stories.
I hadn't realised The Raven was actually poetry (basically rhyming couplets). The stories I liked the best were The Tell-Tale Heart in which the beating of the heart comes back to haunt a murderer; The Masque of the Red Death (which sound s a bit like the modern ebola virus); and The Black Cat.

It is a long time since I have read any Poe. The language of the stories is a bit dated. However the article in Wikipedia says: Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective-fiction genre.

My rating 4.1

I couldn't help being reminded of Linda Fairstein's tribute to Poe: ENTOMBED - to which by the way I gave rating of 5.
My mini-review:
Workers demolishing a nineteenth-century brownstone where Edgar Allan Poe once lived discover a human skeleton entombed -- standing -- behind a brick wall. When sex crimes prosecutor Alexandra Cooper hears about the case, it strikes her as a classic Poe scene...except that forensic evidence shows that this young woman died within the last twenty-five years. Meanwhile, Alex's old nemesis the Silk Stocking Rapist is once again terrorizing Manhattan's Upper East Side. The attacks soon escalate to murder, and the search leads Alex and detectives Mercer Wallace and Mike Chapman to the city's stunning Bronx Botanical Gardens. There, an enigmatic librarian presides over the Raven Society, a group devoted to the work of Poe.
This was an engrossing read. There's a lot of detail about Poe (and who knows if it is correct) but certainly we have all read some Poe at some time. I can believe too the claim made in the book that Poe was the originator of the detective novel. . There were parts of the novel which were very Poe-ish in their macabre-ness and suspense. At the same time it moves at a smart pace and there are lots of little weblike links binding it all together.

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