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The Lady in the Lake

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 7 months ago

Chandler, Raymond - The Lady in the Lake (1943)


It is often said that Chandler's novel The Lady in the Lake (1943) was partly based on "Bay City Blues", the short story version "The Lady in the Lake", and "No Crime in The Mountains". It is certainly based on the first two. The short "Lady" forms the main basis of the novel, and the plot material from "Bay City Blues" is included, largely in the form of references to events happening many years ago. Consequently, most of the actual wisecracking writing in "Bay City Blues" was not reused in the novel, although its plot is incorporated.


"No Crime in the Mountains" is another matter. It has the same mountain setting as both the novel and short story versions of The Lady in the Lake. It also has essentially the same sheriff and his deputy as characters, although they have different names here. Otherwise it is an entirely independent, original story, with no connections in plot or writing with the book. As it is one of Chandler's best works, it deserves to be better known.


Both the short and long versions of The Lady in the Lake find Chandler in Golden Age, puzzle plot territory, unraveling an intricately conceived, ingenious crime. Neither really come off regarded strictly as plots, both being full of major implausibilities. But Chandler showed a good deal of entertaining ingenuity in the attempt, and it is interesting to see him working a vein different from much of his regular style. I prefer the short story version of "The Lady in the Lake": the novel version seems very padded. Chandler's puzzle plot technique here is molded on that of Freeman Wills Crofts. There are trails of people followed, and the plot turns on the "breakdown of identity" that is so important in the realist school. (The concepts of "backgrounds" and the "breakdown of identity" are discussed in detail in the article on the realist school.)


Mike Grost

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