With his most recent novels, The School of Night, The Black Tower, The Pale Blue Eye, and Mr. Timothy, Louis Bayard, in the words of the Washington Post, has ascended to "the upper reaches of the historical-thriller league." A New York Times Notable author, he has been nominated for both the Edgar and Dagger awards and has been named one of People magazine's top authors of the year.
Bayard is also a nationally recognized essayist and critic whose articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Huffington Post. His other novels include Fool's Errand and Endangered Species. He is a contributor to the anthologies The Worst Noël and Maybe Baby (HarperCollins) as well as 101 Damnations (St. Martin's). He also teaches creative writing at George Washington University.
Louis Bayard's website
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The Good Guesser
An essay by Louis Bayard about The Black Tower, an historical mystery set in the early 19th century
Five years ago, I'm embarrassed to say,
I didn't know who Eugène François Vidocq
was. It took Edgar Allan Poe to bring us
In the course of researching The Pale Blue Eye, I reread Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," which is widely regarded as the world's first detective story. But is it? Turns out that Poe's great sleuth, Dupin, in the course of describing his methodology, makes a glancingand slighting reference to a gentleman named Vidocq, whom he immediately dismisses as "a good guesser" lacking "educated thought" and constantly erring "by the very intensity of his investigations."
Two things struck me right off. First, Dupin considered it important to get a leg up on his predecessor (much as Sherlock Holmes would feel compelled to do with Dupin). And second, this particular predecessor needed no introduction to the general reader.
In fact, by 1841, when Poe's story was published, Vidocq was a household name on both sides of the Atlantic, a figure who could be cited by Dickens and Melville without ...
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