William Cuthbert Faulkner (September 25, 1897 – July 6, 1962) was an American writer and Nobel Prize laureate from Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner wrote novels, short stories, screenplays, poetry, essays, and a play. He is primarily known for his novels and short stories set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, based on Lafayette County, Mississippi, where he spent most of his life. Faulkner is one of the most celebrated writers in American literature generally and Southern literature specifically. Though his work was published as early as 1919 and largely during the 1920s and 1930s, Faulkner’s renown reached its peak upon the publication of Malcolm Cowley’s The Portable Faulkner and his 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the only Mississippi-born Nobel winner. Two of his works, A Fable (1954) and his last novel The Reivers (1962), each won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In 1998, the Modern Library ranked his 1929 novel The Sound and the Fury sixth on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century; also on the list were As I Lay Dying (1930) and Light in August (1932). Absalom, Absalom! (1936) appears on similar lists. (Source: Wikipedia)
Faulkner was also an acclaimed writer of mysteries, publishing a collection of crime fiction, Knight’s Gambit (1949), that featured Gavin Stevens, an attorney, wise to the ways of folk living in Yoknapatawpha County. He set many of his short stories and novels in his fictional Yoknapatawpha County, based on–and nearly identical to in terms of geography–Lafayette County, of which his hometown of Oxford, Mississippi is the county seat; Yoknapatawpha was his very own “postage stamp” and it is considered to be one of the most monumental fictional creations in the history of literature. (Source: Biblio.com).
Novels: Soldiers’ Pay, 1926; Mosquitoes, 1927; Sartoris, 1929; The Sound and the Fury, 1929; As I Lay Dying, 1930; Sanctuary, 1931; Light in August, 1932; Pylon, 1935; Absalom, Absalom!, 1936; The Unvanquished, 1938; The Wild Palms, 1939; The Hamlet, 1940; Go Down, Moses, 1942; The Bear, 1942 (novella); Intruder in the Dust, 1948; Requiem for a Nun, 1951; A Fable, 1954; The Town, 1957; The Mansion, 1959; The Reivers, 1962; The Wishing Tree, 1964 (fairy tale); Flags in the Dust, 1973 (original version of Sartoris); Mayday, 1976 (fable).
Short stories: Most of Faulkner’s best short stories appear in Knight’s Gambit (1949), Collected Short Stories of William Faulkner (1950), and the posthumously published Uncollected Stories of William Faulkner (1979).
Jean Stein vanden Heuvel (Spring 1956). “William Faulkner, The Art of Fiction No. 12”. The Paris Review.
William Faulkner’s interest in detective fiction is well-known among Faulkner aficionados, and has, indeed, been discussed previously at this blog. In his attraction to the mystery form Faulkner hardly was alone among great writers of the 1920s and 1930s : other mystery fiends of his distinguished breed who might be mentioned are T. S. Eliot, Fernando Pessoa, Ernest Hemingway and Sinclair Lewis. Yet with its emphasis on murky mystery embedded in complex and tricky narratives, Faulkner’s “straight” fiction is especially suggestive of a man who liked mystery tales. Faulkner himself also wrote a small amount of self-disparaged crime fiction, collected in the volume Knight’s Gambit; and, coincidentally, some of his early novels had dust jackets designed by one of the great between-the-wars mystery jacket artists, Arthur Hawkins, Jr. (The Passing Tramp)
Curt Evans’ articles on William Faulkner are at The Passing Tramp.
First, some chronology. Discouraged by his career as a mainstream novelist, Faulkner wrote the lurid thriller Sanctuary in the first half of 1929; it was not published (in revised form) till 1931. In Fall 1929 he wrote the classic gothic short story, “A Rose For Emily” (published 1930). In early 1930, he wrote “Smoke”, the first of his mystery stories featuring lawyer Gavin Stevens; it was published in 1932. At this point, Faulkner went back to his main career of mainstream novelist, writing the non-mystery As I Lay Dying, and many other books. In the late 1930’s he brought Gavin Stevens back in three more short stories, “Monk” (1937), the mediocre “Hand Upon The Waters” (1939), and “Tomorrow” (1940). Although the three tales maintain tenuous links to crime fiction, “Monk” and “Tomorrow” are basically mainstream stories. In late 1940 Faulkner wrote what is far and away the best of the Gavin Stevens short stories, “An Error in Chemistry”, although it was rejected and not published till 1946, in a contest in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. Like “Smoke”, this is a real mystery story. It startles with its especially well done plot. This seems like a full, Agatha Christie style, intuitionist mystery tale. After World War II, Stevens starred in the novel Intruder in the Dust (1948), and in the novella “Knight’s Gambit” (1949), which was expanded from an unsold 1942 short story. (Mike Grost on William Faulkner)
(Source: Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. Random House (USA), 1949)
From Wikipedia: Knight’s Gambit is a 1949 short story collection by the American author William Faulkner, and contains a short story of the same name. The book collects six of Faulkner’s stories about attorney Gavin Stevens, who also takes a leading part in his novel Intruder in the Dust. Gavin Stevens is the county attorney in Jefferson in Faulkner’s fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. He is shrewd, observant and tolerant of the quirks and foibles of his fellow Southerners. He takes part in the detection and prevention of crime in the county community, and in handling the human passions released by violence in the community. The stories are narrated by his nephew, who calls him Uncle Gavin. He finally marries the Widow Harriss, the sweetheart of his youth. The first five stories were published in various magazines; the six stories published together in 1949 can be regarded as a novel.
The publication history of the six stories is as follows: “Smoke” (1932) (Harper’s Magazine, April 1932; also in Dr Martino); “Monk” (1937) (Scribner’s Magazine, May 1937); “Hand Upon the Waters” (1939) (Saturday Evening Post, November 4, 1939); “Tomorrow” (1940) (Saturday Evening Post, November 23, 1940); “An Error in Chemistry” (1946) (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, June 1946) and “Knight’s Gambit” (1942, rejected by Harper’s and subsequently revised for Knight’s Gambit, 1949).
Novels with Gavin Stevens: Sanctuary (1931); Light in August (1932); Go Down, Moses (1942); Intruder in the Dust (1948); Requiem for a Nun (1951); The Town (1957) and all the stories included in the volume Knight’s Gambit (1949).
Knight’s Gambit has been reviewed, among others, at The Passing Tramp.