Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2010 February 05 • Friday

Edgar Allan Poe's Raven is "Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door", "on the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door".

Fine. But who is Pallas? Wikipedia—I'm too lazy right now to search elsewhere—offers several from Greco-Roman mythology:

Pallas (son of Crius), a Titan associated with war
Pallas (Giant), the son of Uranus and Gaia
Pallas (son of Pandion), the son of Pandion II, king of Athens, and father of the fifty Pallantides
Pallas (son of Evander), the son of Evander, king of Latium
Pallas (daughter of Triton)
Pallas (son of Lycaon), teacher of Athena
Athena, who used the epithet "Pallas"

Sax Rohmer, the famous and perhaps infamous creator of Fu Manchu, wrote several stories about an antique dealer named Moris Klaw, who is sort of a psychic Sherlock Holmes. These stories were collected in a book called The Dream-Detective.

The first story concerns a locked room mystery, a murder in the Greek Room of a London museum. Whatever happened appears to have had something to do with an ancient Greek harp, "said to have belonged to a Temple of Pallas".

It was when I read this that I wondered if the author was paying a tribute to Edgar Allan Poe, whose C. August Dupin is the original inspiration for countless fictional detectives who followed him.

Sherlock Holmes dismissed Dupin as "a very inferior fellow", but this almost certainly does not reflect the views of Holmes's creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, who said that "a whole literature developed" from Poe's detective stories and that "Poe breathed life into" the genre.

The atmosphere of the Moris Klaw stories and their narrative structure owe more to Conan Doyle's writing than to Poe's, however.

In the first story, "Tragedies in the Greek Room", Klaw sleeps at the scene of the crime with "a red silk cushion" in order to take a sort of psychic photograph of what occurred there. Asked if he would like pillows and a blanket, he declines. "'They would be saturated with alien impressions. My cushion it is odically sterilised! The "etheric storm" created by Conway's last mental emotion reaches my brain unpolluted.'"

The word "odically" sent me to my dictionary, which told me that it referred to "od", "a force or natural power formerly held by some to reside in certain individuals and things and to underlie hypnotism and magnetism and some other phenomena".

The dictionary informed me further that the word "od" was coined by a certain Baron Carl-Ludwig von Reichenbach. If you're still reading this, than you probably don't need to click here to discover why Klaw's "odically sterilised" pillow might also be a scarlet strand connecting him to the world's most famous consulting detective.

And it might not. Is there any significant connection between Baron von Reichenbach and the Reichenbach Falls? Did Conan Doyle, who was very serious about spiritualism and other such things, pick those falls because of the name? I don't know. Do Klaw's actions in his first case make him a sort of "Greek interpreter"? Somewhere in all of this is a thesis paper for somebody.

There is another potential literary connection worth mentioning. Douglas Greene, in his introduction to the Dover edition of Sax Rohmer's The Insidious Fu Manchu, notes that the author's real name was Arthur Sarsfield Ward. Sax Rohmer is a pseudonym, "a name, the author explained, that means 'blade roamer'".

It's not a great distance from blade roamer to Blade Runner. Is it a conicidence? In what language is "sax rohmer" supposed to mean "blade roamer"? I don't know.