RARA-AVIS: Re: When the Sacred Ginmill Closes

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 14 Nov 2007

I'm assuming that most of you know that WHEN THE SACRED GINMILL CLOSES was an expanded version of the Scudder short story, "By the Dawn's Early Light."

The short story has a kind of interesting background. Block had agreed to write a Scudder story for Bob Randisi's first PWA anthology, THE EYES HAVE IT. There was some passage of time, however, between the agreement Block had made with Randisis, and the anthology's coming to fruition. In the interim, Block had written EIGHT MILLION WAYS TO DIE, which, it seemed at the time, brought the series to its logical conclusion. After all, once Scudder had taken the necessary steps to conquer his alcoholism, what else was there to write about.

Block's solution was to make the story what a
"continuity implant," setting it before the events of EIGHT MILLION, and vaguely within the period covered by the first four novels in the series. He simply started the story with the words, "All this happened a long time ago," and went from there.

He was so pleased with the final result, that he decided to try for a big payoff market, and sent it to PLAYBOY, which bought it and published it just weeks before its book appearance in the EYES anthology.

It went on the win the Edgar (Block's first of four), the Shamus (his second of four), and went on to become perhaps his most reprinted story, later appearing in THE YEARS BEST MYSTERY AND SUSPENSE STORIES - 1985, THE NEW EDGAR WINNERS, THE EYES STILL HAVE IT, and THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES OF THE CENTURY.

Understandably pleased at the reaction the story got, Block decided to expand it to novel length, which resulted in WHEN THE SACRED GINMILL CLOSES. This in turn, gave him the idea that there was still life in the series, even if Scudder was now a twelve-stepper. And, since there are now more post-GINMILL entries in the series then there are pre-GINMILL entries, it seems he was right. So much for a series that had come to its "logical" end with the fifth novel.

I personally regard "By the Dawn's Early Light" as one of the best PI short stories ever written. In fact, I rather prefer it to the novel-length version. I'd be interested in seeing if any of you, who've read both versions, feel the same way.


      ____________________________________________________________________________________ Never miss a thing. Make Yahoo your home page. http://www.yahoo.com/r/hs

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 14 Nov 2007 EST