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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Behind the Literature II

I previously posted a piece here ( about my discovery that Jack London and Hunter S. Thompson had both once lived in Sonoma County, not far from where I live now.  I was fascinated to imagine these historical literary figures living their lives in some of the same places I now live my own.  What would it be like to run into Jack London at the local saloon, or Hunter S. Thompson at the corner market (or more likely, the local saloon)?  

On that note, I recently found myself in Charleston, SC, for work.  I'm embarrassed to admit that on prior trips there, because of my busy schedule and the time change from California, I rarely got out to see the sights or experience the famous Charleston cuisine.  People would always tell me how lucky I was to have the opportunity to visit Charleston and ask me what I saw and where I ate while I was there.  I never had much to tell them because, due to the free happy hour and snacks offered by my hotel, it was easy to just return to my room in the evening and stay in for the night.  However, I promised myself that I would make myself get out and experience the local culture on this trip.  

Fried oysters at Pearlz Oyster Bar

U.S. Custom House

Purely by happenstance while at work one day, I overheard a colleague recommending to someone a local joint called Poe's Tavern.  I didn't pay much attention until I heard, "Joe's Tavern?"  Then, "No, Poe's.  It's named after Edgar Allan Poe."  That piqued my interest as I have always been a huge fan of Poe, who is credited with creating the mystery genre with his shorty story, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue."  I put my exceptional Google skills to work and found that Poe's Tavern is located on Sullivan's Island, SC. 

Now, I will tell you that this was a big leap for me, going from staying in my hotel room every night to driving out to an actual island (albeit only about a fifteen or twenty minute drive), but I was up for the challenge.  And how could I go wrong with Siri and Apple Maps leading the way?  So I took a scenic drive across the Arthur Ravenal, Jr., Bridge to the island.

Siri did not disappoint, and I arrived at Poe's Tavern without incident.

But what does Sullivan's Island have to do with Edgar Allan Poe?  Well, aside from having a tavern named after him, Poe, after enlisting in the U.S. Army under an assumed name, Edgar A. Perry, was stationed at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island in 1827 for about a year.  Poe set his short story, "The Gold Bug," about deciphering a secret message leading to Captain Kidd's buried treasure, on Sullivan's Island.  This story is said to have had some influence on Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, adding an additional layer of mystique to the place I was visiting.  

Inlaid tile on sidewalk at Poe's Tavern

I ended up sitting outside on the deck of the tavern since the weather was nice.  I was a little disappointed that the place seemed more like a beach dive than a tribute to Poe, not that I'm against a good beach dive.  However, when the menu came, I was delighted to see the burgers named after Poe's stories, like the Amontillado and the Tell-Tale Heart.  

I also wandered inside and saw that there were numerous works of art, such as paintings, prints, and sculptures, depicting Poe and his macabre works covering the walls and much of the other surfaces of the establishment.  Even more interesting was the bathroom, which was wallpapered with pages from vintage Poe books.  You could also hear the spooky narration of one of Poe's stories being broadcast while, er, making use of the facilities.  (See this short YouTube video I found:  I'm not making this up!)

After an enjoyable dinner and a unique experience, I easily navigated back to my hotel.  True to my promise, I got out and about a few more times while in Charleston, but stumbling upon a piece of literary history was my favorite part of the trip.  

Angela Crider Neary is an attorney by day and writer by night. She is an avid mystery reader and especially enjoys reading novels set in interesting locales. She was inspired to write her first mystery novella, Li'l Tom and the Pussyfoot Detective Bureau: The Case of the Parrots Desaparecidos, by one of her favorite areas in San Francisco, Telegraph Hill. To learn more, visit her on Facebook and Amazon.


  1. Angela,

    How fun to read about your visit to Charleston. I tend to be more of an armchair traveler and researcher these days, so I really enjoy reading about the lesser known historical tidbits of places I'd like to visit.

    I, too, am an Edgar Allen Poe fan, so your article was particularly fun and informative. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you, Kaye! Although I found out most of the information about Poe's time on Sullivan's Island online from my "armchair," it was fun to visit the island!

  2. What a fun article. Who knew there was a Poe Tavern? Enjoyed your tour!

    1. Thank you, Janet! It was a fun mini-adventure!

  3. Charleston is a great place to live...until that hurricane comes rumbling in.
    I did not know Poe and London spent time in Charleston. I picture Poe in New England--maybe because Stephen King lives in Maine. And I always thought Jack London was a west coast guy.
    The Poe Tavern certainly looks like an interesting place to hang out.
    I want to wish you great success with Li'l Tom And The Pussycat Detective Bureau: The Case of Parrots Desaparecidos (and I hope I spelled that right.) Love the cover!

    1. Thank you, Sarah! I agree that it's strange to pictur Poe in Charleston. And you are correct that Jack London was from the West - I was referencing my previous post about discovering that he used to live in a town near me in Sonoma County!