From The Website of The Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia
Poe’s Literary Contributions
Inventor of the Detective Story In 1841, before the word “detective” had entered the English language, Poe published the first modern detective story “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” In this tale, Poe established the prototype future mystery writers would follow. First, there would be a seemingly impossible crime, in this case a double murder occurring inside a room still locked from the inside. Then the detective character analyzes the clues in order to solve the mystery. To explain to the audience just how intelligent the detective is, the narrator is not the detective but his slightly dim-witted side-kick. “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” was so well received that Poe decided to follow it with two sequels also featuring his detective Dupin. So assured of his own powers of analysis was Poe that in his tale “The Mystery of Marie Roget,” Poe claimed to have solved a real-life crime that had baffled the New York City police. This would be the first detective story based on a true crime. Poe’s “Thou Art the Man” became the first comic detective story and the first mystery in which the culprit turned out to be “the least likely suspect.” During the author’s lifetime, “The Gold Bug” was so popular it was adapted into a stage play. In this tale, an eccentric detective and his confused side-kick/narrator decode an encrypted treasure map in order to find Captain Kidd’s gold.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, once wrote, “Where was the detective story before Poe breathed the breath of life into it?” He considered Poe the father of the detective genre. In fact, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is so closely based on Poe’s character C. Auguste Dupin that early filmmakers looking for more Holmes mysteries to adapt to the screen merely changed the names of Poe’s characters to turn “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” into “Sherlock Holmes and the Great Murder Mystery.”
In honor of Poe’s contributions to the mystery story, the Mystery Writers of America awards an Edgar statuette each year to a distinguished mystery writer.