Quoth the raven, “Nevermore”
Edgar Allan Poe
A new drawing. I wasn’t directly inspired by the Poe poem, but rather my memories of reading William Hjortsberg’s Nevermore. This was back in the mid-1990’s when the book was first published, when Hjortsberg’s name held some cache thanks to his incredible novel 1978 Angel Heart (a book I’ve always suspected could be the inspiration for the “unexpected twist” at the end of Fight Club). The man had a knack for taking the established tropes of a genre and subverting them. For example, in Angel Heart, Raymond Chandler and Dashiel Hammett fall head first into a bubbling vat of dark voodoo gumbo stirred by William Seabrook. Nevermore, meanwhile, melds the worlds of Edgar Allan Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to great effect, wherein the ‘ghost’ of Poe appears to Conan Doyle to warn him of a series of gruesome crimes, staged as scenes from his most notoriously gruesome tales such as ‘The Murders In The Rue Morgue’ and ‘The Black Cat’. Conan Doyle is in New York, investigating the murders with the aid of his own ‘Dr Watson’, none other than Harry Houdini. Thrown in a femme fatale reincarnation of the Egyptian Goddess Isis and you’re all set for the full monty of pulp-era mash-ups. Hjortsberg evokes the atmosphere of 1920’s New York well, and it’s all good fun that would, I suspect, have back in the 90’s made for an half-decent film with someone like Christopher Lee as Conan Doyle and Christopher Walken as Houdini. Anyway, William Hjortsberg died last month, so the universe loses another lively imagination.