Is The Pale Blue Eye’s Augustus Landor Based on a Real Killer Detective?

Image Credit: Scott Garfield/Netflix

Directed by Scott Cooper, Netflix’s murder mystery film ‘The Pale Blue Eye’ centers around Augustus Landor, a reputed detective who is spending his retirement in New York, haunted by the memories of his daughter Mattie. When a cadet named Leroy Fry gets killed in the nearby United States Military Academy, the former gets hired to unravel the mystery behind the same.

Landor teams up with a young cadet named Edgar Allan Poe to investigate Fry’s murder, which leads the young poet to startling realizations concerning the retired detective. Since Poe became one of the greatest American writers of all time, the viewers must wonder whether Landor was a real-life figure related to the poet. Let us share the answer!

Augustus Landor is a Fictional Character

Augustus Landor is not based on a real detective. Louis Bayard conceived the character for his eponymous source novel of the film. Bayard developed his book as a fictionalized origin story of the renowned writer, presented as a father-son relationship drama. Thus, the author had to create a character who becomes Poe’s father figure and mentor.

Image Credit: Scott Garfield/Netflix

“I needed a detective, somebody who could be Poe’s mentor and father figure as they solved this crime together,” the author told Netflix’s Tudum about the creation of the fictional character. Bayard even relied on characters Poe created to name the father figure. “The name Gus comes from C. Auguste Dupin, who was the detective in Poe’s stories ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’ and ‘The Purloined Letter,’” he added. The author sought inspiration in Poe’s short story ‘Landor’s Cottage’ to conceive the character’s last name.

Therefore, Augustus Landor is an outright fictional character; none with the same name or life had ever existed in Poe’s real life, especially during the six months the writer spent at the Military Academy. Since Bayard and Cooper conceived their versions of ‘The Pale Blue Eye’ as the origin story of Poe, who is renowned as the father of detective fiction, a mentor character does have immense significance.

“He [Landor] is someone who is obviously accustomed to observing other people rather than being observed due to the nature of his profession. He’s successful at what he’s done but has now completed that chapter of his life. He certainly has adopted a certain way of living, which isn’t really working for him anymore,” Christian Bale, who plays the detective in the film, told Vanity Fair about his character.

Image Credit: Scott Garfield/Netflix

Although fictional, as a father, Landor is an enormously relatable character. When his daughter Mattie kills herself, like any other fictional or real father, Landor stoops to distress and becomes vulnerable to her haunting memories. When Poe becomes an integral part of his life, Landor succeeds in finding comfort in treating the cadet as his son.

“He [Landor] dismisses him initially, but comes to find him to be the centerpiece of his life, which he would be quite embarrassed to admit, with his age and standing and everything,” Bale added to Vanity Fair about the relationship between the detective and his protégé. Augustus Landor, despite being fictional, is an authentic and relatable character. The realistic depiction of the trauma that unsettles him, the need for vengeance that drives him forward, and his admirable relationship with his mentee Poe make Landor rooted in reality.

Read More: Is The Pale Blue Eye’s Edgar Allan Poe Based on the Real Poet?