When the legend becomes fact, print the legend…

The above line is from the John Ford directed film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

The point of the quote is that sometimes a legend, or myth, becomes repeated so often that it essentially becomes fact… even if it isn’t true.

My feeling is that often these stories are just so good to the teller/audience that they have no problem accepting them because of that fact, even if a little investigation would result in upending the “legend”.

One of my favorite authors is Raymond Chandler. During his career, he wrote a number of short stories and some seven novels. The novels all featured detective Phillip Marlowe and many of them were subsequently made into films. Perhaps the most famous are the Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall film The Big Sleep

Also well known is the Robert Altman directed The Long Goodbye

The Big Sleep was Chandler’s first novel, released in 1939, and it took elements of various short stories he had written before and its a freaking spectacular novel in my opinion. The Long Goodbye was pretty much Chandler’s last Marlowe novel, released in 1953 and is also a spectacular book which shows how the author matured and faced death. Supposedly, the novel was written as his wife was dying and his grief informs much of what happens in the book. Chandler would release one more novel, Playback, in 1958 but it was an odd work, an adaptation of a script and… it doesn’t feel like a full throttled Chandler book. He would start one more book, Poodle Springs, but passed away in 1959 with only four chapters written. Years later Robert B. Parker would finish the novel and… it’s only ok IMHO.

As Chandler’s novels became big successes, audiences and critics noted the stories he presented were often very complex. In fact, that became something of a source of ribbing by some people and critics and, I strongly suspect, some of the ribbing had an edge to it.

See, Chandler was also something of a gruff person. When his works gained prominence and he started writing scripts in Hollywood (his most famous screenplay is probably for the film Double Indemnity), I strongly suspect he rubbed some people there the wrong way. It didn’t help that he was a very heavy drinker and maybe very moralistic and, perhaps, even repressed. Yes, there were rumors he was, despite being married, secretly closeted or possibly bisexual. Interestingly, the novel The Big Sleep did at times present a moralistic view of sexuality… and frowned at deviancies.

One story that has circulated for many, many years now involves The Big Sleep and that story, it seems to me, is the proverbial legend that supplants what are somewhat easily verified facts (you knew I was going to get back to that eventually, no?!).

So it has been noted by many The Big Sleep’s story is so complicated that even Raymond Chandler himself didn’t know who murdered one of the characters, the Sternwood’s chauffeur.

Lauren Bacall, the wife of Humphrey Bogart and co-star in the famous film version of The Big Sleep, at one point stated that while she and Bogart were going over the movie’s screenplay, Bogie supposedly had this revelation and stated “Hey, who killed the chauffeur?” and that this was when the studios -and Lauren Bacall implied people in general- realized the chauffeur’s murder was unsolved in the story.

Actor Robert Mitchum has a curious story, too. He stated that one day he was in a bookstore and Raymond Chandler was there. The store’s phone rang and it turned out the studio was calling for Chandler and Mitchum overheard the phone call. They were, according to Mitchum, trying to figure out who killed the chauffeur in The Big Sleep and Chandler supposedly said: “I have no idea”.

Cute stories, both of them, but I wonder if either is true.

There have been many others who have echoed the sentiment that The Big Sleep is a great story in spite of the fact that “it is so complicated even Raymond Chandler didn’t solve one of its murders”, referring, of course, to the Sternwood chauffeur’s death. It feels to me many of these stories, as I noted before, have a sharp edge to them. It’s almost like these critics are saying “Raymond Chandler writes so well but gives us such a labyrinthian story to tell that he doesn’t even realize he’s left a murder unsolved! What a bozo… amiright?!


No. That’s not right.

And it takes only a little bit of research, actually pulling out a copy of The Big Sleep novel, to realize this legend is just that.

The following comes directly from The Big Sleep. For those who don’t know, the Sternwood chauffeur is found dead in his car, which had run through a pier, smashing it, and was submerged in water at some point that night. When detective Phillip Marlowe shows up, the car has been found and been brought to the surface and the chauffeur is inside, dead. There are several people/police around, including Bernie Ohls, the D.A.’s chief investigator and a friend of Marlowe’s.

From the book:

The plainclothesman scuffed at the deck with the toe of his shoe. Ohls looked sideways along his eyes at me, and twitched his cigar like a cigarette.

”Drunk?” he asked, of nobody in particular.

The man who had been toweling his head went over to the rail and cleared his throat in a loud hawk that made everybody look at him. “Got some sand,” he said, and spat. “Not as much as the boy friend got— but some.”

The uniformed man said: “Could have been drunk. Showing off all alone in the rain. Drunks will do anything.”

”Drunk, hell,” the plainclothesman said. “The hand throttle’s set halfway down and the guy’s been sapped on the side of the head. Ask me and I’ll call it murder.”

Ohls looked at the man with the towel. “What do you think, Buddy?”

The man with the towel looked flattered. He grinned. “I say suicide, Mac. None of my business, but you ask me, I say suicide. First off the guy plowed an awful straight furrow down that pier. You can read his tread marks all the way nearly. That puts it after the rain like the Sheriff said. Then he hit the pier hard and clean or he don’t go through and land right side up. More likely turned over a couple of times. So he had plenty of speed and hit the rail square. That’s more than half-throttle. He could have done that with his hand falling and he could have hurt his head falling, too.”

So, in a few paragraphs, Chandler offers three theories as to what happened to the chauffeur: 1) He was drunk and ran off the pier. 2) He was murdered, hit on the side of his head and the car run off the pier with him in it to make it look like an accident. Finally, 3) He committed suicide.

Note that Chandler goes into the greatest details with the suicide and further, it makes the most logical sense.

See, cars back in the 1930’s were not like cars today and they required more effort to skillfully maneuver.

The chauffeur being drunk is dispatched almost right away. The car drove “straight” through the pier and at a very high speed. Tire tracks in the rain water indicate this. So… not drunk.

The murder option, based on the explanations offered, would imply the killer would have had to be inside the car driving it very fast and straight down to the pier, then smash through that pier at high speed to then land upright in the water.

The killer would then swim out and leave the chauffeur’s body behind.

Now, this is a very dangerous thing to do, no? The killer could have just as easily gotten him/herself injured when smashing through the pier and falling in the water. Hell, they could have gotten themselves drowned.

So we fall to option three: Suicide.

Now, I will admit this much is true: The Big Sleep novel offers no absolute answer to what happened to the chauffeur. However, Raymond Chandler, far from being befuddled and not knowing what happened to the chauffeur, offers a very logical explanation for how he died… and it likely wasn’t a murder after all.

Within the context of the story, is it possibile he committed suicide? Absolutely. He was infatuated with Carmen Sternwood, one of the two “wild” daughters (Vivian Sternwood was the other daughter and she was played by Lauren Bacall in the movie). Carmen, we find, was being blackmailed and because he couldn’t help take care of that nasty business, he might have been distraught enough to commit suicide.

So, yeah, everything fits.

Going back to my main point, though, the legend turns out to be just that. It’s clear Chandler thought very hard about what happened to the Sternwood chauffeur and offered an explanation as to why he found himself dead.

Rather than the author being befuddled and having “no idea” who did him in, he very clearly had a strong idea of what happened.

More New Novel Update…!

So as of today I’m roughly 1/5th or so of the way through putting the revisions made in red ink into the computer file and… I have to say, I’m finding this stuff moving along really nicely.

The book has lingered with me for longer than I wanted but I think in part this happened because of a general depression. I don’t want to keep coming back to it, but if you’ve read my entries you know what happed to my parents and it has impacted me. How could it not?

At times I’ve felt like I’ve been running at half speed… getting things done but not really putting as much energy into them like I did before.

Reading through the book to get to this point felt like it took me forever… but I’ll be damned if the process didn’t allow me to come to understand what I was writing and how I was going to present the various characters and situations.

So far, putting all this stuff into the computer has proven a far easier task than that readthrough and red marker revision. The book has essentially two “introductory” parts before the novel proper begins and both of them, I feel, are pretty close to be complete and done. I’ve now moved into the novel proper as of today and these initial pages are also flowing wonderfully.

It’s a satisfying feeling to see the work taking shape and -to the extent it can being only words on a page- life.

I’m happy with it and I’m eager to get through it!

More to come!

Trumpian Monday…

POLITICS… Beware!!!

So I wrote a few days back about Monday and the bond Trump has to pay -which was supposed to be $464 million dollars and… it was reduced by the New York appeals court to $175 million and he was given ten days to secure this amount and…

…I don’t get it.

I suppose there are many who don’t either. I thought the whole point of posting the bond was to secure the judgment amount while the appeals process was playing out.

Assuming Trump can get this lower amount of money for the appeal and further assuming he has the rest squirreled away somewhere, what’s to stop him from trying to burn through it while the appeal process goes on?

Again: Wasn’t this amount supposed to essentially lock up the judgment amount so that if the appeal fails, the victim(s) of the fraud perpetrated by Trump would get their restitution?

I dunno.

I did see some pundits say the amount is very high and, to be clear, many of his properties are in the United States and, specifically, within New York and perhaps because of this -and the fact that there are people overseeing Trump’s finances now- they felt there was no way he would get around this judgment if and when the appeal process is exhausted. Prosecutors could then just take over the properties and -hopefully- that’s that.

And I suppose $175 million is still a pretty high amount.

So why do I feel like Trump has yet again gotten something no other defendant gets when facing the legal system?

I have to say… the moment we no longer have to deal with Trump and his… stuff… anymore can’t come soon enough.

The final countdown…?

Warning: Politics!!!!

If you’ve followed the news even a little nowadays you know that Donald Trump is facing a whirlwind of legal challenges even as he’s running for President yet again under the Republican ticket.

He’s so far been losing judgments yet at times “winning” by having trials be delayed.

On May 9, 2023, Trump was found liable for defamation and sexual abuse against author E. Jean Carroll and she was awarded $5 million in damages. Trump, never a shrinking violet, went on to talk and talk and talk about this verdict to the point where she sued him a second time for defamation. On January 26, 2024, Trump was found liable for defamation against Ms. Carroll and awarded a whopping $83.3 million in damages.

Trump appealed this verdict but, to do so, he had to produce a $91.6 million bond… which he did. In New York, you see, you can appeal verdicts but you have to put the money (plus some 10%) down in case you lose the appeal. It’s a way of ensuring the victims know the money is there for them the moment the appeal is exhausted and does not allow the guilty party to forever stall and appeal the verdict.

In other words: Pay up before you appeal or else you can’t appeal.

There were plenty of people wondering if Trump had the money to pay for this appeal but he did manage to get it… even as very quickly the company who provided the bond was exposed and, apparently, that caused enough consternation within the company, Chubb Insurance, the CEO was forced to defend the action…

Chubb CEO defends backing Trump appeal bond in E. Jean Carroll case

The fact is that Trump -whether you like or loath him- is increasingly being viewed as a financial risk and there are those who invest in Chubb that viewed this bond as a financial risk.

Welp, Trump had another case go against him, this one also from New York and involving civil fraud. Mr. Trump lost the case and was ordered to pay $454 million. This case involved years of questionable financial dealings and, once again, if Mr. Trump wants to appeal the case, he can certainly do so… provided he offer a $454 million bond.

This bond is due March 25… a whopping four days from today, and…

Trump’s lawyers say it is impossible for him to post bond covering $454 million civil fraud judgment

It would appear, according to the above article, that there is no bond company willing to cover this amount and Mr. Trump doesn’t have the liquid assets to cover it himself… this despite boasting under oath during one of these cases (I forget which) that he had some $450 million in such assets.

So the clock is ticking and, should Mr. Trump not be able to post this bond, by Monday New York Attorney General Letitia James, the woman who successfully prosecuted Trump, can start seizing his assets.

It’s a fascinating fall for Mr. Trump, whether he manages to post that bond or not, and one can’t help but note that the man brought this all on himself.

Like it or not, getting into politics shines a bright light on you. Running for, and being elected President shines an even brighter light on you and you really, really must make sure your past is clean because inquiring minds will start to look through your past…

I wonder if this is the start of the end for the Trump financial empire. It’s possible, certainly, he finds a way to wiggle out of this and gets someone -maybe someone close to him- to pay the bond.

But $454 million dollars is an awfully large amount of money and there are other cases -criminal cases- to come.

All while Mr. Trump runs for President.

There was a time even one of these scandals was enough to fell any potential candidate. Mr. Trump, to his credit, seems to know no shame and pushes on despite everything falling around him.

I’m damned curious to see what happens Monday.

New Novel Update…!

Seems like forever since I’ve been able to do one of these.

Anyway, yesterday I finally –finally– finished the read-through and red-marker fix up of my latest novel. This represents my fifth run through the book and, I would add, my most intense. Next up is taking all those red marker fixes and putting them into the computer file of the novel, print the thing out, then its on to draft #6.

It took me a very long time to get through this draft and that really annoys me. It feels like too much has been going on both personally and professionally during this time and I’ve also been working on another side project (more on that to come!) which kept the revisions moving in slow motion.

I will say, though, that this was the first really top-to-bottom, intense revision. This happens with me when I’m revising novels. Some revisions may be more focused on technical aspects, ie making sure sentences are well written and clear while others, like this one, focus on the story being told and making sure I’m telling it the best way possible.

Anyway, it’s done and I do feel like I’ve climbed the proverbial mountain. I suspect the revisions from this point on will be more focused on those technical aspects and will be done quicker.

This novel will be released this year, perhaps in the summer…!

Nostalgia… Part Two

Posting a few of my recent eBay purchases yesterday has opened a flood of nostalgia and… I’m kinda in the mood to talk about things that influenced me.

I’ve written about this before but not very recently, so what the heck…

There are a few monumental experiences I had as a young man which led me into wanting to create my own works. Some of the experiences are vague now with the passage of the years but some remain incredibly strong.

Way, waaaaaay back in/around 1971, when I was no more than five or so years old, I happened to catch this TV movie when it premiered…

The movie, for those who haven’t seen it, features Dennis Weaver as an “everyman” (his character’s name is -wait for it- David Mann) who heads out to some business function or another and, along the way and on a mostly deserted road, encounters a truck.

What follows is some of the most suspenseful material I’ve ever seen in a “mere” TV movie, as the truck keeps appearing before Mann and his intentions turn decidedly homicidal.

I saw the film way back then and it really stuck with me. Years would pass and sometime in the 1980’s, full decade later, I happened to catch the film on TV again… and told my friends they needed to see it.

What I didn’t know back then in the Stone Age of pre-internet times was that this film was directed by one Steven Spielberg and it was, after several TV show episodes, his first full on directed movie.

It was, I realized then, thematically very similar to Spielberg’s first HUGE theatrical release, Jaws. Both films feature protagonists who are chased by a very menacing creature, one a truck, the other a shark. In fact, it is my understanding the producers of Jaws decided to give Spielberg the job because they realized Duel featured the same type of suspense they hoped to achieve.

Here’s the thing though: I saw the film exactly once back in/around 1971. Why, of all the things that I saw back then (and I’ll get into them in future entries) did that one stick with me?

It wouldn’t be until years later and a proper bells and whistles DVD was released of Duel that the answer came to me. Mr. Spielberg, clearly relishing revisiting his first big success, was interviewed as a bonus feature on the DVD and he got into the process of making the film.

One of the things he said about this really stuck with me and explained why such a young man as I was way back then appreciated and understood that this was a story being told to me with a beginning, middle, and end.

You see, Mr. Spielberg originally intended the film to be “silent”. Not in the sense of having no sound, mind you. He used the sound of engines and tires squealing and the crunching of metal on metal very effectively.

No, what Mr. Spielberg was talking about was that he originally intended the film to have no dialogue at all. Effectively, the action and movement, the cuts and reactions of Mr. Weaver were originally all that were intended to be shown.

Universal Studios, however, had no interest in doing this and thus there are bits of dialogue here and there in the film and verbal “reactions” by Mr. Weaver’s character to the situation he’s in…

…which for the most part and in my humble opinion don’t add much to the film.

The fact is that Mr. Spielberg’s original vision is mostly there to be seen and some, perhaps even most of the dialogue we do get could have been excised and the story told wouldn’t have been impacted much.

And there, I realized, was why the very young me not only could follow the story being told here, but actually understood it. I’d seen other films in/around that time (I have a particular memory of seeing Papillon in a theater) but none of the films I saw really stood out quite like Duel did for me and I strongly suspect its because the film was essentially told through pictures and therefore was easy for a young man like me to “get.”

Watching Duel was but the first step in my lifelong passion for films and I find it so interesting it would be a Steven Spielberg film -though one I wasn’t aware until much later he directed- that would be the gateway to that passion!


Just discovered eBay and, yeah I know, I’m really late to this particular party.

Over the past few months I’ve flown around a bit and, unlike where I live, I’ve found comic shops with pretty healthy back issue bins and its been ages since I’ve gone through back issues and picked out stuff from the past I might have had at one time and which now I really want to get my hands on again.

So I did so, but once I got back home, it was back to not having access to that stuff. Truthfully I don’t know how exactly it happened but I must have started looking around and realized I could essentially look around the entire country’s worth of stock and find copies of all that interesting stuff I used to have and no longer do.

Again: I know I’m really late to this party and I know to some it may be nonsense but…

This is a copy of Weird War Tales #39 I picked up. It has a cover date of July 1975 and I figure I must have gotten my hands on this in and around that time period… though I have no way of knowing how exactly. Over time I lost this issue but elements of it stuck with me.

In the 1970’s DC would release a vast array of comics, from superhero works (I suppose their bread and butter) but also westerns, war books, and horror series. Weird War Tales married horror and war and was a fascinating series which had some fascinating stories through its 12 year, 124 issue run.

The primary element of the above issue is Joe Kubert’s magnificent cover. Joe Kubert, to me, was pretty much the king of DC comic books covers from the late 60’s and through the 70’s and into the 80’s. If DC should decide one day to release a Omnibus edition of all the covers he created, from war books to horror books to superhero books to pulp books… I’d be the very first person in line to pick it up. The three stories presented in the book were a revelation as well. I recall the first one the best, especially its final panel which chilled the hell out of me as a kid.

I obviously wasn’t going to stop there, right? Continuing the haunted nautical theme, I also picked up Weird War Tales #27, July 1974. This one I don’t believe I had before but I recall seeing advertisements for the book in other comics I did have so it was a no brainer to buy this one. The cover here is by Luis Dominguez, I believe (a website lists it as being by Frank Robbins but I don’t think so… he did illustrate the first story so I suspect this might have been a small error). While Joe Kubert was IMHO the king of DC comic books covers, Luis Dominguez wasn’t too far behind. He made some magnificent horror and western covers during the 1970’s as well!

Here we have another book, Unexpected #161 from February 1975. I absolutely loved DC’s 100 Page Spectaculars. More comic book stories and pages? Sign me up! The cover this time around is by Nick Cardy. He’s yet another spectacular DC cover artist from this era who created terrific covers after terrific covers. I had this book way back when and the two stories depicted on the cover in particular are wonderful!

Finally, here’s the Jonah Hex Spectacular released in January of 1978. This was another book I had way, waaaaay back when that really turned my head when I read it. Or rather, read the first story which involved Jonah Hex.

Written by longtime Hex writer Michael Fleischer and illustrated magnificently by Russ Heath, the Jonah Hex story “The Last Bounty Hunter” tells the “last” Jonah Hex story… and its freaking brutal.

In 1904 an elderly Jonah Hex fights Father Time. He has to wear glasses and isn’t the young hellion he used to be. He gets involved in a bounty and the results wind up being very tragic.

This is very much meant to be a final Hex story and I’m shocked, even after all these years, that editorial within DC allowed such a story be made. Not that its a bad story, heavens no, only that it features such a wild end for what was a very popular character during most of that decade… and whose regular book was still being published!

Of note, the pretty terrible Johnny Depp Lone Ranger movie released a few years back ripped the Jonah Hex tale off with its framing device, which saw Tonto as some mannequin in a circus type place in the early 1900’s.

I don’t want to get into too many SPOILERS but, yeah, they ripped off Mr. Fleisher’s story there but without the sadness and shock that is found in the comic.

So for those who itch to recover things they had at one time long ago, sniff around eBay if you have the free time -and the cash to blow! You might find yourself picking up stuff you really enjoyed way back when…

…and I’m not just talking about comic books!