NEHW Women In Horror Month
E. A. Black
My name is E. A. Black and I write horror. You may have seen me on Facebook where I go by the name Elizabeth Black. I think it's only fitting I write this post on January 19, which is Edgar Allan Poe's birthday. He would have been 209 years old if he were alive today. I have my bottle of amontillado by my side and I shall drink from all day long.
Poe had a huge influence on me as a writer and he was my first taste of horror. I discovered him in junior high school when my English teacher made the class read some of his Tales Of Mystery and Imagination. I loved The Tell-Tale Heart and The Black Cat. I'd never read anything like that before, and the stories made a huge and thrilling impression on me. I grew up in Baltimore where Poe lived the final years of his life and died mysteriously on the city streets. At the time I read lots of mysteries, most notably Agatha Christie's Miss Marple books and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. I also read all the Nancy Drew books. I wanted to be a detective when I grew up. It was sheer joy to read Poe's The Gold Bug. C. Auguste Dupin was the first fictional amateur sleuth. He influenced the likes of Sherlock who came after him.
When I was in high school, my social studies teacher gave the class the assignment of writing about a famous American. I didn't want to go to the library, pick up a few books about Abraham Lincoln or Harriet Tubman and write a five page paper. No, I wanted to turn the assignment into an adventure. The Poe House and Museum and Westminster Church where he was buried were not far from my house. I called the museum to get the hours of operation, and my mother and I made a special trip down there. It was a tiny brick row home in a rather sketchy part of town, but nothing was keeping me away from a place where my favorite writer lived.
The museum curator Jeff Jerome gave the small group of us a wonderful tour with all sorts of inside information about Poe I didn't know. For instance, he had a wicked sense of humor. I learned that after I read a few of his satirical comedies, most notably Never Bet The Devil Your Head. I also learned he was very protective of his young wife (and cousin) Virginia, who had tuberculosis. He taught the family cat to sleep on her chest at night to keep her warm. He, Virginia, and his Aunt Mrs. Clemm often sang in front of the piano in their living room. Jeff brought Poe to life for me in a way that made him a real person rather than a distant literary figure.
I saw both of Poe's grave markers. First, the smaller one towards the back of Westminster Church and then the famous, huge one visible outside from the road. For 75 years, a mysterious man called The Poe Toaster would visit the grave on Poe's birthday in the middle of the night and leave roses and a half-full bottle of liquor (often cognac) on the large grave. No one knew who he was although Jeff Jerome claimed he knew the man's identity but refused to name him. That was fine with me. Keep the mystery alive. The Poe Toaster stopped appearing in 2010. The practice was revived not long ago but Version 2.0 is a man selected after a contest. I've never seen the Poe Toaster and I'm sorry I missed all the fun. I was too young, though. Not quite of age yet. Still in high school.
Poe colored my later taste in horror. I have many favorite horror writers, but since this is Women In Horror Month, I'll name the women who have influenced my taste in horror. My favorites include Shirley Jackson, Daphne du Maurier, Anne Rice, and Charlaine Harris. Some of my favorite horror films were directed by women. These films include Near Dark (Kathryn Bigelow), Ravenous (Antonia Bird), and The Babadook (Jennifer Kent). One I'd like to see is The Hitchhiker, directed by actor and director Ida Lupino. Ironically, I first saw her in a Sherlock Holmes movie. She also directed the fine Twilight Zone episode The Masks, about a rich and dying man who forces his heirs to come to his house and wear masks or they'd have to forfeit their fortunes. They end up taking on the visage of the horrid masks he made them wear. On top of that, she directed two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. She had quite the career.
I moved from Baltimore to Massachusetts about 20 years ago, and then I discovered H. P. Lovecraft. I'm well aware of the people who like to argue about who is better – Poe or Lovecraft. I prefer Poe. Lovecraft stated that Poe influenced him, so that's all the argument I need. Then again, Poe was influenced by one of the founders of Gothic horror literature, Ann Radcliffe, which is only fitting for Women In Horror Month. We've come full circle, and that's a good thing.
E. A. Black writes in a variety of genres. She writes erotica fiction as Elizabeth Black and horror as E. A. Black. Her new novelette Roughing It is a sexy cross between The X Files, The Andromeda Strain, and Outbreak. You may find Roughing It at Amazon. Her horror fiction has appeared in Zippered Flesh 2: More Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad, Wicked Tales: The Journal Of The New England Horror Writers Vol. 3, Teeming Terrors, and more. Her short horror story Infection will appear in Zippered Flesh 3: Yet More Tales Of Body Enhancements Gone Bad later in 2017.She is working on her first horror novel, Hell Time. She lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and her three cats. Visit her web site, her Facebook page, and her Amazon Author Page.