If I had to pick an author who exerted at least a modicum of influence on me as a youth, it would be Edgar Allan Poe. I read his short stories and poems with wide-eyed wonder. They captured my imagination like nothing else I read, the more prolific Nathaniel Hawthorne perhaps trailing in a distant second place. True enough, his style is rather archaic by today's standard—elongated sentences dripping with exquisite verbiage—but I loved it and still do. What I’m writing here is rather impressionistic, as I didn’t reread Poe lately or dig into any research. I suppose his character C. Auguste Dupin and the detective stories planted a seed of interest in murder mysteries and true crime docudramas. His poem “Annabel Lee” moved me even as a youth. Of course his gothic horror stories of revenge, fear, hate, and the grotesque come most readily to mind when I (and just about everyone else) think of Poe. Two other monumental figures were born in 1809: Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. No doubt they’ve shaped the world I now inhabit, an America without slavery and a scientific view that is slowly but surely supplanting earlier concepts of our species’ origins. Still, the tragic mustachioed figure who mysteriously died in the streets of Baltimore is like a soul brother. I share his romantic sensibility and melancholy disposition. I’ve come to find over the years that his writing style and the content of his work have influenced me more than I had realized.