Is Poe really the most influential American writer? A new book offers evidence.


Is Poe really the most influential American writer? Note that I didn’t say “greatest,” for which there must be at least a dozen viable candidates. But consider his radiant originality. Before his death in 1849 at age 40, Poe largely created the modern short story, while also inventing or perfecting half the genres represented on the bestseller list, including the mystery (“The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Gold-Bug”), science fiction (“The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” “The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion”), psychological suspense (“The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Cask of Amontillado”) and, of course, gothic horror (“The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” the incomparable “Ligeia”).



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