Edward Gorey and Edgar Allen Poe, soulmates of the abbatoir

As Halloween approaches, my thoughts turn from the merely morbid to the macabre, so I’m dreadfully sorry that a previous commitment will keep me from the Huntington Gardens this Saturday night, when actors of the mysteriously named “Guild of St. George” will dramatize 12 tales by two of my favorite dementors, Edward Gorey and Edgar Allen Poe.

I’ve often wished the gardens were open at night. The sprawling emerald grounds, so pastoral and inviting by day, cast a distinctly eldritch spell as twilight falls.

Several times each summer, the Huntington throws open its doors from 5:30-8 pm for concerts, which provides a window into a wilder, spookier gardens. Still, 8 pm in high summer is more dusk than dark. Deep night is when the Huntington Gardens really come alive, something I recall from my mis-spent youth when a Bad Influence occasionally convinced me to shimmy over the back wall and indulge in Coleridgian antics in the Japanese Garden.

Now that I’m a responsible adult, I content myself with merely imagining such transgressions – and many darker ones – in the crime novels that I write. That’s why I appreciate Edgar Allen Poe. He’s widely considered the father of the mystery novel and the Edgar Award, given by the Mystery Writers of America, is considered the field’s highest honor. (My first book, The Jasmine Trade, was a finalist).

As for Gorey, he’s in a serenely sinister league all his own, mixing exquisite pen-and-ink drawings with archaic, archly humorous prose. I’m especially fond of “The Unstrung Harp, Or Mr. Earbrass Writes a Novel,” which I think should be required reading for all would-be authors.

So the thought of seeing these authors’ worlds brought to life under the cold Autumn sky on the moonlit grounds of Henry Huntington’s ritzy old estate in San Marino almost makes me swoon.

They’ll be enacting “The Tell-tale Heart,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Insect God,” “The Gashlycrumb Tinies” and more. We have a “Gashlycrumb” poster in our bathroom and the 11 year old already walks around muttering “S is for Susan, who perished of fits.”

The whole family is going except me, boo-hoo, so they’ll just have to tell me all about it. But things aren’t all Grimm. I’ll be at the Biltmore Hotel for the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association banquet, where the anthology I edited, “Los Angeles Noir,” is a finalist for “Best Mystery of the Year.” May the spookiest book win!


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