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May 04, 2006



I thought this link is appropriate:
It's Alberto Manguel on Borges views of the detective novel and its relation to fiction in general. I just saw it posted over at Maud Newton's blog, it's like one of those karmic moments you were talking about below.

By the way Jeff, these are both fascinating posts. I love the idea of all fiction being related to mystery fiction. This is great stuff.


Karen Joy Fowler asked me to post this comment on her behalf:

I find myself mesmerized by 1893, but even more mesmerized by Jeff's mother. I try to picture the conversation with the principal, but "he knew better than to say no to my mother," doesn't give me enough information to guess how the conversation would go. So it's a personal question and I won't press, but if Jeff would like to say more about his mother, I wouldn't mind.

In the meantime -- Michelle de Kretser in The Hamilton Case says that the real juice in the detective story doesn't take place between detective and murderer, but between writer and reader. What do you think, Jeff? Is that bullshit?


jeff ford

Brian: I haven't done Spanos any favors here in my description. You really have to read his essay. It's fascinating. I remember reading a lot of stuff by Robbe Grillet (he did a lot of playful things with the Mystery genre) at the time and it all seemed to make perfect sense what they were getting at. Now, I've forgotten much. Thanks for the Borges/Manguel post.

jeff ford

Karen: LOL! Not bullshit at all. The real juice always seems to take place between writer and reader. Just as there are so many more interesting things beside the solving of the mystery that go on in a Mystery (or a good Mystery). Like you want to know more about my mother, I wanted to know more about Nick and Nora Charles (of The Thin Man). I think their relationship as presented is one of the most interesting in fiction. When readers dismiss Mystery or Fantasy as being a genre, it's because they're not seeing all those other cooler things than the energeic drive to the finish line. As for my mother, she was crazy and cool -- kind of a Mystery herself.


Hey Jeff -- just wanted to let you know that the thru-the-eyes-of-the-hero movie is called The Lady in the Lake, adapted the Chandler story. (the tagline: M*G*M presents a Revolutionary motion picture; the most amazing since Talkies began! YOU and ROBERT MONTGOMERY solve a murder mystery together!) Here it is on IMDB:

We watched parts of it in film class as a lesson on why true subjectivity sucked in movies, or something to that effect (film style does not lend itself to pure first person narrative, etc etc). Now I kinda want to watch the whole thing (who doesn't want to solve a murder mystery w/ Robert Montgomery?)(oh PS that user comment on IMDB about hitchcock is TOTALLY wrong, Rope is all about a roving, objective camera, if anything.)

My grandmother was a pretty mysterious lady, and when she died last year all sorts of questions were left unanswered, you know, forever. I was really sad about it, about all of it, and then my friend pointed out that now her stories had kind of passed on to us, to solve or end as we may. I've got a knee-jerk reaction against such sentiments, but her advice felt just about right.

jeff ford

Meghan: Thanks for the name of the movie. I knew it wqas a Chandler but for some reason I was thinking Montgomery Cliff, but that couldn't be right. It was Robert Montgomery. Yeah, that movie stayed with me. If I'm not mistaken, I think Montgomery is a Mystery writer in it. Would you happen to know the name of the one where the guy is poisoned by a slow acting poison and he has like a day or two to solve who poisoned him and get the aqntidote? That was another plot I remember vividly. I agree with you about the lack of sentimentality at the end of life. Spanos was right, life is not a book, but the drive to make it one is great. Do you have anything or a story of your grandmother's that you feel is your best clue to who she was? My mother left behind these manuscripts and paintings and they are brimming with all kinds of secret info or so it seems to one lost in the story.


>Would you happen to know the name of the one where the guy is poisoned by a slow acting poison and he has like a day or two to solve who poisoned him and get the aqntidote?

That was D.O.A. It was remade in the '80s with Randy Quaid, though I haven't seen that version.

jeff ford

Thanks, Brian. I have a feeling the original is a little later than the other ones I was mentioning. Didn't know about the relatively recent remake.

Matt Cheney

Okay, if we're getting film geeky, has anybody seen the forgotten Bogart/Bacall movie Dark Passage, where the first third is completely subjective from Bogart's POV? It's been probably ten or fifteen years since I last saw it, so I won't venture a guess of what I'd make of it now, but it seemed interesting to me back then.

Here's the IMDB link:


Hey, Jeff, it's very funny, but my company is actually releasing another "slow acting poison" movie this summer, except in this one the man must keep his adrenaline up AT ALL TIMES!!! I haven't seen it. But I think it's less on the mystery, more on the running very fast and killing people.

My grandmother was not outwardly mysterious, but she kept a lot of secrets you only got passing glimpses at. The story I heard right after her funeral was once my mom and her sisters were sitting around w/ their parents, and one of them asked my grandmother why she never wore her engagement ring. She looked over at my grandfather and said, "I liked the first one better." She wouldn't say any more, no whens, wheres, or whys, though eventually the kids got her to explain that they had been engaged once before, and but she gave the ring back. When he proposed again w/ a new ring, she demanded where the old one was, and my grandfather said he got rid of it. That pissed her off to no end, but she still said yes. We still have no idea why she gave it back, or why he gave it away. There's a lot of darker secrets she kept too, I think, b/c her childhood was rough, though you would never hear it from her (16 kids, alcoholic parents, working in the mills in manayunk, the whole irish story). So. Little mysteries, wrapped in a tiny old lady who scolded her husband and drank a lot of tea.

jeff ford

Matthew: I saw Dark Passage way back. I think, if I'm not mistaken its a plastic surgery movie, isn't it. where you don't see Bogarts face in the beginning and then he gets a face and he winds up looking just like bogart? Was Ida Lupino in that one or was she in Petrified Forest?

jeff ford

Meghan: That movie sounds like my kids are going to want to go see it and so I might catch it -- fast running and shooting. Yeah, what more can you want?
The stuff about your grandmother is great. I thought I could almost see her when I was reading it. I got a sense of her. Maybe it's something for you to write about?

Jeff Ford

Well, I just got back from work and checked the comments and it looks like I've responded to everyone. I wanted to say I had a good time doing this and was very thankful to all of you who posted for taking the time to discuss the Girl in the Glass and my other stuff and to come and chat with me. I very much appreciate it.

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