Here's an excerpt from an article by Joe Queenan in The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, April 8, 2007) :
A short while ago, a ripping yarn called Grim Legion: Edgar Allan Poe at West Point came across my desk. Published by Bewildering Press, a relatively new firm that specializes in speculative writing, Grim Legion recounts the rousing adventures of the future author of The Fall of the House of Usher shortly before he was expelled from the United States Military Academy in 1831. A bit of a screw-up, though not yet the morbid, self-destructive alcoholic he would later become, Poe has stumbled upon a monstrous plot by a shadowy organization called the Helvetian Society ...
A Personalised Window into Poe's World, 28 Oct 2007By Stefan Brenner "qbalber" (Cambridge, UK.) - See all my reviews
Having read the work of Edgar Allen Poe without a real understanding of his world, I was fascinated by Alcott's book. I confess that, initially, I was somewhat put off by the rough-and-ready style; then, suddenly, the penny dropped. I realised that Alcott's unforgiving language had been deliberately designed to mirror the grim reality of Poe's life in an American Military Academy; an institution where he, virtually alone almong his peers, was not the son of wealthy upper class parents who could pull strings to make life easy. Alcott shows how, without such privileges, Poe's situation at West Point spirals ever downwards in a drunken whirlpool of alcohol, opium, conspiracy and debauchery. Hounded by a secret society within the 'Point' and let down by his superiors, Poe learns to rely only on his wits, the help of his only surviving blood relative, and his inner desire to go on living no matter what. When, having lost his brother, his sweetheart and his friends, he leaves never to return, we are able to see how these experiences will come to be translated into the grim tales of horror and despair we all know. Read this and acquire a highly personalised window into Poe's world.
READER REVIEWS FROM AMAZON.COM:
4.0 out of 5 stars The Vicarious Pleasures of Poeian Pain, October 8, 2008 By Gary Golio "Rockwriter" (New York, USA) - See all my reviews (REAL NAME). Despite my depressive disinclination to read sad, dark stories these days (given the somber political and economic tales that surround and infect us daily), once I started GRIM LEGION, I couldn't put it down. Sick in bed with a cold for two days, it was the perfect accompaniment--or should I say, antidote?--to my misery, and I enjoyed every sad, dark minute that the book provided. As a longtime aficionado of Symbolist poetry (particularly Baudelaire and Rimbaud), Dylan lyrics, and things Poeian, I was most impressed with Alcott's ability to create such a rich picture of the emotional life of Edgar and his brother, their dipsomaniacal and substance-fueled vulnerabilities/troubles, and the social setting which motivated, imprisoned, and eventually doomed them. As a therapist (clinical social worker) who has worked with many artists struggling with mood and addiction troubles, I also found the author's treatment surprisingly kind and well-balanced--a remarkable feat! Add to that, the flavorful vernacular and bawdy (almost burlesque) womanizing + youthful misadventures of the brothers Poe: truly memorable writing that's stuck in my mind for days on end now. In short, GRIM LEGION is a rear window into the early mind and soul of the immortal Edgar, and a chance to hang with the Master of the Macabre without placing oneself in the least bit of physical danger. As for the psychic and emotional after-effects, I make no guarantees....
If you enjoyed "Time and Again" by Jack Finney fasten your seat belt. Alcott paints mental pictures of a bygone time with words, while keeping you on the edge of your seat with this page turner of a murder mystery. Poe would be proud. You'll never again read "Annabel Lee" without thinking of Eleanor in "Grim Legion."
Let's hope he writes another.
By Betsy Gallant Clar: See all my reviews (REAL NAME) I read it in 2 days (on the train) and I absolutelyloved it! Congratulations on an excellent story that kept my attention from the first page to the last. I will recommend it to all of my friends.
By Sam C. Ivey: From its very opening page, on which are found the preceding words, Grim Legion — an historical fiction novel by Jack Alcott and the premiere print publication from Bewildering Press — the reader is drawn irresistibly into the socially chaotic, corpse-cluttered and drug-bedeviled world of the Macabre Maestro, Edgar Allan Poe. Devotees of Poe-etry and mystery-minded minions in general — swept back in time to the third decade of the 19th century — will discover themselves quite captivated with this homicide-haunted tale, based on a little known segment of the great writer’s life. There, among the superficially egalitarian corps of West Point cadets, where Poe is failing in his studies and where he feels himself to be anything but officer material, one is introduced to a surprising mix. There the politically proper are side by side with the perennial prankster; the bullies and the bullied are as one might find them anywhere. And there, too, are the vicious and the victims.Old Ben’s Tavern, which Mr. Alcott colorfully describes as “a sagging old saltbox” — an off-limits hangout for the cadets — becomes the scene of a grisly murder. Clutched in the victim’s hand, Poe is alarmed to find a page from Al Araaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems, one of his own works published two years earlier. Because of the murder’s striking similarity to one of Poe’s prior escapades, he is seen by many as its likely perpetrator. As the clouds of suspicion gather, his romantic attachment to Eleanor, Ben’s daughter, is jeopardized.Enter William Henry Poe, Edgar’s brother. Here is a wastrel more accomplished: a profligate drinker and womanizer par excellence from the loins of David Poe, their capable but ill-fated father. In loose alliance, Edgar and his brother are swept by circumstances from one den of illicitness to another — from one murder to another ...
4.0 out of 5 stars Alcott Delivers Fine First Novel , May 13, 2007; By Joseph Walsh (White Plains, NY USA) - See all my reviews (REAL NAME) A well-paced murder mystery rich in Hudson Valley history. Edgar Allen Poe readers will enjoy the biographical material woven into the plot.
5.0 out of 5 stars Jack Alcott: Next Poe, January 14, 2007
By P. West (Brewster, New York United States) - See all my reviews
Jack Alcott is a bright new thriller writer who has devised a stirring and engrossing tale about one of our greatest horror legends, Edgar Allan Poe. Forget what you thought you knew about Poe: The novel captures Poe's early and, to most readers, little known years - his aborted stint as a West Point plebe. Let's just say Poe's early life mirrors his stories' strange and disturbing narratives, with drug and alcohol binges and taste for the bizarre and hallucinatory. Alcott's style is dramatic and modern and captures the essence of the era. Skip the other Poe novels published recently. This is the real deal. Loved it.
FROM BARNES & NOBLE:
Grim Legion REVIEW by Anonymous
March 01, 2007: A murder mystery taking place during the period of Edgar Allen Poe's brief time as a cadet at West Point. Alcott wove in real and imagined characters in this well researched novel. His familiarity with West Point and the surrounding area lends credibility to the story. Climbing inside Poe's head, before he embarked on his career as a writer, was great fun.