RARA-AVIS: gunsel

From: Mark Sullivan ( DJ-Anonyme@webtv.net)
Date: 27 Jun 2000

I just finished The Poison Sky by John Shannon. (Each book in the series gets even better.) Jack Liffey overhears the following story:

"I was going to tell you about the little game Chandler had with his editor. That was over a forbidden word, too. . . .

"In those stories that he wrote for the pulps, he was always trying to slip in a little something about pederasts, but ever time he did, the editor would yank it out. . . .

"It was a pretty Puritan time, after all. He'd sneak in a child molester as a minor character and out it would come. Just one reference to a perky little bottom in passing, zip, eagle eye would spot it and blue-pencil it. He'd write about a character who liked to watch young boys playing football, and yank, out he would come. Finally he had an inspiration and he made Marlowe call one of the hoodlums a 'gunsel' and the editor let it pass. Chandler and his pals had a real yuk about it in private but they never gloated publicly. . . .

"If you look it up in the dictionary, you'll see that the dictionary folks define 'gunsel,' in their piquant way, as a boy who's kept for immoral purposes. Ironically, of course, Chandler was so popular that his little joke ended up making gunsel into a synonym for gunman."

Now Wilmer was referred to as a gunsel in The Maltese Falcon. So isn't this story actually about Hammett, not Chandler? Or is there an equivalent story about Chandler?

The mistake seems particularly strange given that Shannon showed knowledge of both authors when a character referred to Liffey as Sam Spade: "He'd rather have been Philip Marlowe because Spade has a nasty streak, but he didn't say anything."


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