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William Faulkner

September 24, 2013
William Faulkner

William Faulkner

Before I read Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, in 1991, I had read hundreds of novels spanning every conceivable genre, but it wasn’t until I read that one book that I understood what novel-writing was all about.

It’s the story of  the breakdown of the Compson family over a thirty-year period. Caddy Compson is the central figure and her relationship with her brothers — Quentin, Jason and Benjy — is told from multiple viewpoints. (Caddy has a daughter, whom she names Quentin).

The Sound and Fury is Faulkner’s greatest achievement, and, like his previous and later books, is not an easy read. But when I came to the end of it I remember clearly it was a morning in late June and closing the book I smiled and said aloud, “This is one hell of a story.”

Faulkner is not for everyone. I told a friend how much I enjoyed As i Lay Dying and she said it was the worst book she had ever read, and read it only because it was on the assigned list in her American Lit class.

It’s been a long time since I read Faulkner. I still haven’t read the Snopes Trilogy (The Hamlet, The Town and The Mansion) but the other day I decided to read Knight’s Gambit, a book of six mystery stories. That’s right, Faulkner wrote whodunits. Although both my novels, The Champagne Ladies and The Coffin Haulers, are mysteries, they’re not typical for that genre.

The fact is, I’ve never read many standard mystery books. I read all of Sherlock Holmes while i was in grade school and a couple of other mystery novels later on, but that’s about it. I prefer mystery stories more in the manner of Graham Greene’s Stamboul Train and Ministry of Fear.

The mysteries in Knight’s Gambit are solved by Gavin Stevens, one of my favorite Faulkner characters. As described on the back cover of my Vintage paperback edition, “Stevens’ sharp insights and ingenious detection uncover the underlying motives.”

No gun play, no chase scenes, just wit and intelligence — that’s what I like.




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