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Preserving Poe, evermore: Author Berry to speak in Baltimore Thursday, raise funds to restore Poe House

Starting Saturday, literary fans will have the opportunity to return to Edgar Allan Poe's former home in Baltimore, and hopefully won't be disturbed by the beating of a hideous heart from under the floorboards.

To raise funding for the restoration of the Edgar Allan Poe House Museum, and reopen the its doors to the public, Poe Baltimore, Inc. is hosting an evening with fiction writer Steve Berry at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore.

Berry has written The New York Times best-selling book "The Third Secret" and "The Templar Legacy" and is a founding member of the International Thriller Writers.

In addition to his writing, Berry manages History Matters, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving literary and American history. With History Matters, Berry donates his time to organizations fund raising to preserve historic buildings.

"The past is so extremely important. If we don't know where we came from, we don't know who or what we are," Berry said. "One thing people need to know about preservation is that it's a local project and needs to be done locally. You have to raise awareness in the communities to actually help out."

Sam Rogers works with Poe Baltimore, an organization tasked with restoring and opening the Poe House to the public. Rogers said the nonprofit was formed about 18 months ago, as ownership of the house was transferred from Baltimore City to the group. The Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum is located in the late writer's former home on North Amity Street, where he lived from 1833 to 1835. Of Poe's three homes, it is the most well-preserved. According to the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, it was at this house where he wrote his first works, including "The Visionary," "Serenade" and "The Coliseum."

"I think Poe is a part of the fabric of not just Baltimore, but of all of Maryland," Rogers said. "We've got an interesting literary heritage, which includes not only Poe, but also F. Scott Fitzgerald, Laura Lippman, Anne Tyler. It's an important part of what Maryland has been. We're interested in preserving that literary heritage."

Starting Saturday, the home will be open weekends until the end of the year. The museum will feature self-guided tours through exhibits on Poe's foster parents and his life and death as well as original artifacts including his writing desk. Rogers said the home still contains much of the house's original woodwork, floors, plaster walls and hardware.

At the event, Berry will give the keynote address, discussing the life and influence of Edgar Allan Poe, as well as his newest piece of historical fiction "The Lincoln Myth," which covers a deal made between Abraham Lincoln and Mormon leader Brigham Young that changed the face of the Civil War.

As a thriller writer, Berry said he was partially indebted to Poe, who launched the detective subgenre with the short story "Murders of the Rue Morgue" in 1941.

"I have always been interested in Poe. I was fascinated with the last year or so of his life," Berry said. "He was a working writer. He hustled it, like we all do every day. There's a lot of us writers who can relate to Poe. He had a rough life."

Berry said he is interested in the ways Poe played with mystery and the unknown, a focus that reappears in much of his own work.

"I like things that we don't know the whole answer to," Berry said. "When we don't know, we can build off of that and put our own spin on it."

Berry's novels all revolve around a narrative extrapolation of historical events. His books take a historical fact, and build a narrative around it. He has written about the Library of Alexandria, presidential assassinations and the death of Napoleon Bonaparte. He said he cherishes these opportunities to meet with readers.

"It's wonderful. You write a book all by yourself, and you have no clue if anyone will read it or even like it," Berry said. "Seeing fans and interacting with people is my way of getting that feedback.

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