Friday, February 6, 2009

Mulholland Dive/The Maltese Falcon
The opening sentence of Mulholland Dive grabbed my attention right away. Flashing police lights and emergency vehicles lined on a highway are sights I see all too many times. The description pulled me into the story right away. I liked the way the storyline moved along quickly and directly. There was enough professional “lingo” to make me feel like the police and detective were competent professionals, but not so much as to lose me and make me not care. I had never her of a reconstructionist, so I enjoyed learning a little about Detective Clewiston's job and the technology he used to figure out an accident scene. Did I mention the description of the surroundings? I almost felt as if I were standing on the hill, and feeling a night breeze blow by.
In this short story, Michael Connelly did a good job of developing the character of Detective Clewiston. It was easy to see that he was intelligent, precise, meticulous and to the point. He didn't waste any time. This was reflected in the way he approached the accident scene, and made his analysis of the events. This was also reflected in the way he called the unnamed women, wife of the deceased and began his blackmailing scheme. He was intelligent, precise, meticulous and to the point. And coldly evil. It was unexpected, yet, not shocking. Somehow his crime could fit with his character. The other people in the story were small players in the story. He did not really elaborate on their personalities, but it was not necessary to the story. In the novel, The Maltese Falcon Dashiell Hammett spent a lot of time developing the detective, Sam Spade. He was intelligent, devious, thoughtful, and took his time to ferret out information from all sources. He liked to keep those around him guessing, and only shared information as would suit or forward his purpose. Hammett also took time to develop the characters of other key players, including Gutman, Miss Wonderly/O'Shaughness/LeBlanc, Cairo and the police officers. This was important to the novel to increase the complexity of the interactions, and increase the intrigue of the mystery. Both stories involved blackmail and murder. In the short story, the detective had a peaceable working relationship with the police. In the novel, the detective had an almost hostile relationship with the police, that even became physical at times. Mulholland Dive moved along swiftly, and was to the point, even with it's surprising ending. The Maltese Falcon was circuitous, full of twists and turns that in the end left you dizzy, but satisfied. Mulholland Dive took place on Mulholland Drive. The Maltese Falcon took the reader all over the city, into the character's private dwellings and offices, and in public places. Both had the themes of deception, basic to all murder mysteries. The Maltese Falcon had theft, and theft, and theft again in the pursuit of riches, as well as multiple murders. Mulholland Dive had murder and blackmail to obtain riches.
Both stories were written by men, not a lot of talk about feelings and extraneous detail. Both stories had men as main figures that were competent and strong willed. Both had women that were corrupt but dependent on men to some extent to carry out the ultimate deeds. I enjoyed both stories and it was difficult to pick a favorite. I liked the intrigue and twists and turns of The Maltese Falcon. I liked the setting and that I felt I was taken back in time. I liked Mulholland Dive because the pace was fast, and direct, and it really worked for this story. I know it broke the rule of the detective being the criminal, but it didn't matter to me in this story. I especially liked the irony of the ending (won't say it here so as to not ruin it for another reader). That ending was great. I am very much enjoying this course. It is so interesting to dig in and see what I like about mysteries since I have always been a fanatic. I liked the introductory readings and learned a lot from them about what makes mysteries work, and what does not. It's good to read what others are thinking as well.
In general I am interested to see how short stories can develop characters enough to pull the reader in,create enough intrigue to peak interest the, and provide clues to the ending. I wonder if there are any separate rules for short stories.


  1. Hi Mary -

    I almost picked this story for my read list for the reasons you gave. It sounded interesting to me, but when I narrowed my list down to six, it fell off.

    I like the way you describe the story and help give a sense of what the character is about without giving away the ending. The fact that the detective is also the criminal is intriguing to me. I will certainly add this my personal read list after class is done.

    Not having read the story, I tried to imagine if the detective had been a woman or if the writer had been a woman how different a story it would have been. I think the current story plays into our own cultural stereotypes, expectations and gender bias. For an author to buck the system requires extremely talented writing craft, or will end up not "ringing true" to the audience.

    Thanks for the write up - really enjoyed it!


  2. I really did not like this story. I didn't think that it developed the character and I got the impression that he did the blackmail pretty consistently for his side job. It said "Clewiston shook his head. Second-guessers. They hire his services and then can't live with the consequences." (pg. 25) He was just an evil person in my mind and used his job to kill and take advantage of others.