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Beautiful Cigar Girl Unabridged Compact Disc Audio CD – Audiobook, Oct 10 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
The author of Edgar winner Teller of Tales now recounts the story of Manhattan tobacco store clerk Mary Rogers, a mysterious beauty whose posse of admirers made her a minor celebrity in 1841 in various newspapers' society pages. The discovery that year of her mutilated corpse fueled a public outcry and a newspaper circulation war, as well as a fictional magazine serial by Edgar Allan Poe featuring his famous detective Dupin speculating on the murder of working-class Parisian "Marie Rogêt." Poe rightly deduced that Mary wasn't a victim of the gang violence that plagued New York City in the absence of an effective police presence. But he came late to the accepted theory that Mary had died of a botched abortion and had to tweak his final installment to maintain his and Dupin's reputations. Although Stashower's account bogs down in comparisons of Poe's revisions of the Rogêt manuscript, it's a generally absorbing account of the birth of the modern detective story. The sordid details of Mary Rogers's stunted life pale in comparison with Poe's own love-starved childhood, self-destructive tidal wave of alcoholism, poverty and rants against publishers and rivals; Poe's genius and literary legacy are hauntingly drawn here. (Oct. 5)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Mystery novelist Stashower, who won a nonfiction Edgar for Teller of Tales (1999), a biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, returns to his historical roots in this examination of a celebrated murder in 1840s New York City that turned Edgar Allan Poe into an amateur sleuth. The text ably weaves the story of a young woman, celebrated for her beauty and her untimely death, with that of Poe, whose poems and stories often celebrated the deaths of young, beautiful women. Mary Rogers worked behind the counter of a cigar store in Manhattan in 1841; she was so beautiful that the store was jammed with her admirers. On July 28, 1831, three days after Rogers had gone missing, her body was found floating in the Hudson. The press seized on her murder, but the New York police force (depicted by Stashower as completely disorganized) failed to find her killer. One year later, Poe (just after the success of his detective Dupin in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue") proposed to his publisher that he investigate this famous cold case. Although Stashower works a bit hard to invest this murder with multiple levels of significance, it remains an intriguing story, one that sheds considerable light on the snares of a big city for a young woman. Expect this book to attract readers who were entranced by The Devil in the White City (2003), another account of crime in the nineteenth century. Connie Fletcher
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
If there is something to be learned by the ubiquitous episodes of the "Law and Order" and "CSI" franchises, it is that a murder is never straightforward. Just like those shows, when the lovely, alluring yet innocent seeming Manhattan store clerk who worked in a popular smoke shop frequented by men of all walks of life goes missing and her body is later found washing up near a waterfront park in Hoboken, New Jersey, Pandora's box is opened. Circumstantial evidence suggests connections to the city's gang culture and abortionists. There is a revolving door of individual suspects, too, who may or may not have been the victim's swains. The police department is largely night watchmen and process servers prone to corruption and unequal to the task of fighting and detecting crime. Then the media steps in and it is hyped beyond belief. In Philadelphia, where he has taken umbrage after burning just about every personal and professional bridge in New York, Poe reads the newspaper accounts and realizes that his ever-present money problems and professional ambitions could be resolved by inserting the fictive detecting methods he created for "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." He puts himself on the line, advertising that in his new story starring his detective Dupin, "The Mystery of Marie Roget," he will solve the puzzle.
To say more is to spoil this very real plot. I think Stashower does a fine job of balancing and interweaving the various strands of biography, social history, crime detection and the birth of detective fiction. He has a very direct but graceful way of writing and ordering his information. He evokes 19th century New York vividly. If you liked THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY, then you should enjoy this. My only complaint, too small to demote the book a star, is that I wish the author were more explicit as to naming his sources when he quotes, for instance, "a writer of the day." There is a considerable bibliography at the end, but no idea which source gave up what information per se.
The young lady who came to be known as "The Beautiful Cigar Girl" was Mary Rogers. In 1938 the proprietor of a local cigar emporium named John Anderson hired Mary to work as a salesgirl in his store. Thanks to his new hire and the convenient location Anderson's Tobacco Emporium proved to be an immediate and smashing success. Newspaper moguls, business leaders and government officials all frequented the store. Suddenly, Mary Rogers was somewhat of an "item" and her name would appear from time to time in various newspapers. As things turned out Mary Rogers only worked at Anderson's for a short period of time. However, when her her battered and bludgeoned body was fished out of the Hudson River in 1941 the apparent murder of Mary Rogers became a sensation in the newspapers.
The stories were rife with speculation and inuendo. Over the next year or so the story would take any number of strange twists and turns. And while the murder of Mary Rogers has never been conclusively solved the most likely scenario turns out to be quite surprising indeed!
In the meantime, it seems that Daniel Stashower devotes more than half of the pages of "The Beautiful Cigar Girl" to the life of Edgar Allan Poe. While Poe certainly did become involved in the case of Mary Rogers with his fascinating article "The Mystery of Marie Roget" I certainly had no reason to expect that so much of this book would be devoted to him. Since I knew very little about Edgar Allan Poe to begin with I really did not mind learning about his life here. It turns out that despite his obvious and enormous talent, Poe's penchant for self-destructive behavior would severely limit his ability to earn a living in the literary world. Time and time again, in job after job, Edgar Allan Poe would wear out his welcome. His story is both sad and tragic and one cannot help but wonder what might have been had Poe been able to overcome his personal problems.
In any event, the bottom line is that "The Beautiful Cigar Girl" was not quite what I had expected. Too many pages devoted to Poe really did seem to detract from the real reason I was reading this book--the murder of Mary Rogers. Despite its shortcomings, this is still a book that managed to hold my interest from cover to cover.
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