RARA-AVIS: that damn chauffeur

From: Carrie Pruett ( pruettc@hotmail.com)
Date: 11 Mar 2002

>The Big Sleep isn't flawed? Even Chandler admitted he had no idea who
> >killed the guy in the book store. That's what happens when you cobble >a
>couple of unrelated short stories together to make a novel.
>John Lau

Actually, it's the chauffeur, whose name I forget, whose murder is unexplained. And without spoiling anything (I couldn't do it anyway as I don't remember anybody's name), it's fairly apparent who killed him. Marlowe hypothesizes it and the perp's reaction seems to confirm it though subsequent events get in the way of a confession or arrest. The issue gets confused later when Marlowe tells a different story to the cops and DA; however, Marlowe has deliberately changed the story in order to keep the Sternwoods out of it. The issue gets further confused in the film, because the scene where Marlowe discusses the case with the DA was cut.

The anecdote about Chandler not remembering the killer's identity is funny, but even if it's true it's told in the context of a screenwriter (maybe Faulkner?) calling him up several years after he wrote the book. That doesn't mean he didn't know what happened when he wrote it. I didn't know that TBS was based on several shorts but if so that seems to make it more rather than less likely that Chandler knew the killer's identity. It's one thing to finesse what ends up being a minor plot point in the course of an entire novel and another to write a mystery short without a solution.


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