Sunday, February 1, 2009

Mulholland Drive

1. I chose "Mulholland Drive" because it was set in California like The Maltese Falcon. The short story really did not allow for much character development. I know the detective did what he did because he wanted money and that he had done it before. I know he also recorded his conversation with the wife because he wanted to use it against her later when he needed more money. I did not learn much about the wife, the dead man or any of the other characters. The plot for the short story was very simple, an accident committed by the detective and then another accident with the detective as the victim. The plot for the novel started with a murder of one of the detectives and the partner trying to solve it because he was one of the suspects. As the story unfolds, we see that Sam is a chauvinist, as are most men of his time, and basically a good guy. There are times in the story when he could have taken the money and gone over to the dark side but never does and stays true to himself.

2. The author of "Mulholland Drive" is a man like Dashiell Hammett. The men in both stories have the women being the main villain or instigator of the crime. The wife in the short story wanted her husband dead because the prenup would not allow her all the money, but death would and in The Maltese Falcon the dame was the one who killed Sam Spade's partner. Her action of killing Miles was to get protection from her own partner. The men from both stories don't show much respect for the women whether that is because they are women or because they are criminals, I don't know.

3. I really did not like many of the aspects of the short story. What I did not like about "Mulholland Drive" is that it used terms with which I was unfamiliar. The author tried to explain what the traffic re-constructionist was doing but it was very technical. I am a visual person and the explanation did not paint a picture in my mind. To say the least it was a little confusing. In addition, the detective is the one who sets up the accident. How clever that he is the one called to reconstruct the scene when he is the one who caused it. The story ends without everything being explained. Does the recorder make it to the police and they find out the wife was involved along with the detective or does she live happily ever after, and does the man save the detective or does he die? Needless to say I was unsatisfied with the ending. The good surprise or irony is that his own accident occurred just the way he said the other accident happened. I did like that twist.

4. While reading The Maltese Falcon I could picture the characters in old black and white movies. If the characters were based on the culture of the times then we can see that smoking in public and drinking was common. Also, the chauvinistic and condescending attitudes of the males in the story is probably an indication of how women were treated at the time. They should be pretty and cooperative. I don't know how much of the character's attitudes are based on the times but I would guess a fair amount. I would not appreciate being treated the way the women in this novel were treated.

5. I think that one thing that I noticed about "Mulholland Drive" was that it did not follow the code of writing mysteries. In "Top 10 Rules for Mystery Writing" number eight says "The detective should not commit the crime." I do believe that with so much uncertainty in life we should be able to count on the detective to be honorable. I know real life is not like that but in my stories and novels I want the hero to be the hero and not also the villain.


  1. Hello. I agree with some of your statements. I also felt as if I could picture the characters in a movie. I felt as if I could see the smoke from Spade's cigaretts. I could see his face and his eyes squinting as he is talking with the cigarett in his mouth. Did you enjoy the novel?

  2. I did like the novel except for the way he treated women. It did make me feel like I was back in that era.

  3. I'm really interested in your take on Mulholland Drive. I didn't choose to read it this week, but have it on my list to read at some point for one of my short stories. Now I'm wondering if I'll have the same reaction to it? I like that you mentioned you could see the "black and white movie images" as you read THE MALTESE FALCON. I felt the same way. I kept picturing the characters from Double Indemnity for some reason?

    You are absolutely right that the detective shouldn't be the villain as disappointing. I chuckled a little when you said that "with so much uncertainty in life we should at least be able to count on the detective to be honorable." In the end, Sam Spade was honorable, but I did like that he was just a little bad in between. I never quite knew how to take him.

  4. Hi Marcia -

    After reading your blog, it did strike me how far we have come in this country regarding smoking. Obviously Sam Spade is a chain smoker, but so are most of the characters surrounding him. It is interesting to me that if the movie was remade to meet today's Pop culture expectations, he would probably be addicted to caramel latte's and chai tea instead of cigarettes and alcohol. I had glossed over this while reading, but recall seeing the smoke filled scenes in the Bogart version of the film.

    We can begin to see that cultural trends seep into our stories to make the settings or characters more believable to the reader, or to help "ring true."


  5. I understand what you mean about not getting a clear ending. That was how my short story was and I felt that it left me completely unsatisfied.

    I found it interested that there was a story that had the detective commit the crime. I too read in that article was against the rules. After reading the article "Top 10 Rules for Mystery Writing," it made me want to defy the odds and prove that I could make it work. After thinking about it and what you said "with so much uncertainty in life we should at least be able to count on the detective to be honorable." I too agree that the detectives should be honorable and trustworthy.

    Did you feel that Sam Spade was honorable? I felt that he was flirting with that rule of detectives cannot commit the crime. Even though he didn't commit the crimes, he didn't seem above it.