Hey, have you ever wanted to read a fictional mystery about the circumstances surrounding Charles Dickens’ ominously unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood? How about two at the same time?
No? Well, that’s too bad, because two new novels this month are, by some curious coincidence, both treatments of this Drood legend.
First there’s Drood, by Dan Simmons. It is told through the perspective of author and opium enthusiast Wilkie Collins, as he watches Dickens descend into the London underworld to pursue the eponymous bogeyman.
It’s a bestseller already. Apparently Guillermo del Toro has seized the film rights, too, and is probably figuring out how he can set this during the Spanish Civil War.
Now imagine the ire of Matthew Pearl, whose turf this so firmly is. With The Dante Club and The Poe Shadow (and I can happily vouch for the quality of the former) he’d pretty much established himself as prime minister of this literary subgenre: A Nineteenth Century Writer Was Completing an Historic Work of Literature, and Then There Was MURDER!
His Drood book, The Last Dickens, I wouldn’t have thought could be overshadowed, but its reviews so far don’t look as flattering as Drood‘s. Not only did Dan Simmons beat him to publication, but with a book twice the size (784 pages: truly a heftable weapon in the spirit of Thwok).
It’ll be interesting to see how this old-fashioned duel ends up, and if it’s settled with pistols.