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  • Published: 1 April 2009
  • ISBN: 9780099287674
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 192
  • RRP: $25.00


A Life Cut Short

Edgar Allan Poe's life (1809-1849) was gothic, mysterious, theatrical, fatally flawed, original, dark, dazzling, satirical, inventive - in short, an ideal subject for Peter Ackroyd. Concise, dramatic and immensely readable, this is an essential and idiosyncratic addition to Ackroyd's canon of brilliant biographies.

Heralded as a genius, the forerunner of modern fantasy and credited with the invention of the psychological drama, science fiction and the detective story , Edgar Allan Poe had a life as dramatic and tragic as his art.

Poe's life was dominated by dying women; his mother died of consumption when he was only two, his stepmother when he was twenty, and his wife, Virginia, died of the same disease and at the same age as his mother. As Ackroyd brilliantly shows, it was these deaths, together with his miserable childhood, that led to such dark and dazzling tales as 'The Fall of the House of Usher' and 'Berenice', although it was wiht the publication of 'The Raven' that the writer finally ahcieved the recognition of which he dreamed. Success couldn't save him from himself, however, and he was dead by the age of forty, his final days as mysterious as much of his writing.

Poe was an extraordinary writer and in Peter Ackroyd, he has found his perfect biographer.

  • Published: 1 April 2009
  • ISBN: 9780099287674
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 192
  • RRP: $25.00

About the author

Peter Ackroyd

Peter Ackroyd is an award-winning historian, biographer, novelist, poet and broadcaster. He is the author of the acclaimed non-fiction bestsellers London: The Biography, Thames: Sacred River and London Under; biographies of figures including Charles Dickens, William Blake, Charlie Chaplin and Alfred Hitchcock; and a multi-volume history of England. He has won the Whitbread Biography Award, the Royal Society of Literature's William Heinemann Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award and the South Bank Prize for Literature. He holds a CBE for services to literature.

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Praise for Poe

200 pages of beautifully concentrated and cadenced prose

Glasgow Herald

Ackroyd tells his story straight, without moralising

Literary Review

Mr Ackroyd's biography of a writer who dies at the age of 40 after an alcoholic bender is almost as vivid and flawed as Poe himself ... Mr Ackroyd is especially good at conveying Poe's precarious state


Ackroyd is clearly fascinated by his subject. He makes the reader want to re-read Poe, and indeed to read more of Ackroyd on Poe

Scotland on Sunday

With an adept ventriloquism Ackroyd weaves together contemporary testimony with his own crisp narrative...a vivid recreation of the life and sensibility that lay behind the work

Evening Standard

Admirably captures the heady mix of the esoteric, grotesque and thoroughly modern in Poe

Sunday Times

Ackroyd is more like a literary spiritualist who summons up the voices of the dead and encourages them to possess his writing... It is as short and sharp as a flick-knife

Daily Telegraph

Poe's brilliant, erratic, abbreviated career stands to gain rather than lose from the form of brief life patented by Ackroyd. A short biography is not a long one shrunk. Instead of patiently accumulated details, emotional complexity and architectural shaping, it operates by lightening strikes, atmospheric colouring, impressionistic techniques of concision and suggestion


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