RARA-AVIS: The Deadly Percheron

From: Charlie Williams ( cs_will@hotmail.com)
Date: 03 Dec 2002

Are we doing the 40's? I lose track of which decade. Sorry if we're meant to be somewhere else. Anyway...

I just read The Deadly Percheron (1947) by John Franklin Bardin and feel compelled to recommend it to anyone who has not read it.

A New York psychiatrist is presented with a frankly ridiculous case that only gets worse (and more bizarre) as he gets more involved. My normal preference is for crime from the POV of the criminal (eg: Thompson, Starr, Cain), but the investigator's role here is interesting and ambiguous enough to have me gripped.

The mystery is driven by the first-person narrator's amnesia, which allows Bardin to thoroughly explore the idea of identity. What pulls it off for me is the sublime way he handles such outrageous plot turns. And I mean
*outrageous*. These are the kind of events I yearn for when reading Chandler
(no slouch himself in the rabbit-out-of-a-hat stakes). I was reminded of David Lynch's "Lost Highway". But where that film was deliberately non-linear, there is method in Bardin's madness.

BTW, Lynch would surely have a ball with this material, but he's missed his chance - a movie of The Deadly Percheron is now in production from FilmFour.
(*Sigh* - why does everything have to get filmed?)


Charlie Williams

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