A couple of years ago, I took an English literature class. One of the assignments was to rewrite a short story we’d read for class from the point of view of a minor character. I had three stories to choose from, one of which was Edgar Allen Poe’s “A Cask of Amantillado.” A challenge.
There are three possible characters in the story besides Montressor confessing to walling up a guy inside his wine cellar. One is mentioned in passing, one is the doomed Fortunado, and the last is Montressor’s unseen audience. I discounted the first one since he was almost a clone of Fortunado. Fortunado was out because he would most likely be dead at the time Montressor makes his confession. And if he’s not, I couldn’t come up with a plausible way for Fortunado to escape. So that left the listener. He was an unknown character because all we know is this crazy man Montressor, who, thanks to some sixties B movies, sounded in my mind like Vincent Price, yammering away about how Fortunado deserved to get walled up and left to die.
So who was this guy? And why was Montressor bending his ear? I came up with a character to be the recipient of Montressor’s ravings. The first third of the story establishes him as a wine merchant in New Orleans during Andrew Jackson’s term as president. He is an expatriate from Tuscany who takes on an English name, becomes Episcopalian, and adopts a slightly British accent to blend in with the Antebellum South. He also has a habit of dressing all in black. So when Montressor, who was chased out of Europe by the Napoleonic Wars, turns up, I slowly reveal the character’s connection to him and how their pasts intertwine. Montressor, whom Poe depicts as not entirely sane, mistakes my character for a priest and makes confessions to him, the last of which is Poe’s short story.
The feedback I got on the story was good. I personally was happy with it. Two problems: Where do you sell it, and how do you sell a story based on Edgar Allen Poe? “Cask” has long since fallen into public domain, and the story, while based on “Cask,” is radically different from the original.
Two years later, I still don’t know what to do with this story. So I put it to you, blog denizens. Where should this thing go?