Knight’s Gambit (1949)

ISBN: 0824068246
ISBN 13: 9780824068240
By: William Faulkner Faulkner Willia N. Polk

Check Price Now


20th Century American Literature Currently Reading Faulkner Fiction Literature Mystery Short Stories To Read Yoknapatawpha County

About this book

Gavin Stevens, the wise student of crime and folkways of Mississippi's Yoknapatawpha county, plays the major role in these six stories of violence.

Reader's Thoughts


These short murder mysteries are bite-sized vitamins to fuel my raging literary crush on Gavin Stevens. Gavin is a dry student of human nature, Chick Mallison's (awesome)uncle and my favorite narrator in Faulkner's world except for V.K. Ratliff.He embodies one of Faulkner's favorite themes, alienation. A Harvard-educated lawyer shouldn't fit in with the rest of Jefferson, Mississippi. Stevens almost manages it, but the "almost" shows in every story.


Nice collection of Faulkner short stories featuring Gavin Stevens. The best of all of the Stevens stories is the novel, Intruder in the Dust(not included here), but all of the ones here are quite fine. Length increases the tortured Faulknerisms but also the depth of the characterization and the impact beyond the puzzle aspect of the mystery, so the title story--the longest--is also the best, and the least mysterious. But none of them are bad, or without mystery. Or without tortured Faulknerisms. I only wanted to hurl it across the room once, though.


The following are comments from V.K. Ratliff, friend of Gavin Stevens.Now, Lawyer doesn't see some things. But I let him find those things out for himself. If I was to tell him, it wouldn't have ever come to him in a way it would have made a difference. Lawyer don't know women, hasn't ever, won't ever. But I'd put him up against any man on recognizin' the difference tween good and evil. And if he can't make the law work he'll get justice if he has to do it outside a court room.Now Bill Faulkner wrote this book "Knight's Gambit." It's all bout Lawyer. I don't figger in it too much. But I figgered in some others. I read it too. Down at Mac Reed's Drug Store off the Square. Had me some strawberry ice cream cones while I was readin it. I'd say strawberry ice cream's bout God's most greatest creation. Me and Lawyer's nephew Chick, we'd go down there and get us a cone ever now and then. It's mostly true,what's in that book. Sho, I liked it too. Liked it just fine. You watch Snopeses long as me an Lawyer watched Snopeses, you'd see it for the truth, too. Not much in this town happens I don't know and I know all the people in this book.They's some folks think Lawyer was just Bill's mouthpiece, spoutin' out his ideas on politics and govermint and the like. An they was a lot alike. Just like Bill goin' gray early, so'd Lawyer. An then Bill had a thing for younger women, more'n one or two of em, not that he'd ever have told it. Now the women did. Oh, yes. Even put it down in books. That Meta out in Hollywood and that young woman got Bill to let her help him write that play about Temple and Gowan, Nancy too, poor woman. Lawyer was bout the same way there too. He was allus lookin' to help those young girls form their minds he said. Not that the town thought so. Except Lawyer, I doubt, never got nothin' from that Eula Helen of Troy Varner, nor her daughter Linda, neither. Sho, I think Bill was prob'ly luckier at love than Lawyer other than Estelle of course. But they was two separate people. Knowed both.Lots of folks don't think much of this book of Bill's. Got me a Time magazine when it come out and this feller was writin' bout Bill and said he'd missed the bar on this one. Said he must of wrote it to make money cause some of those stories was put in the Saturday Evening Post so it wan't litrature. I guess he must of wrote that for free cause he wan't no better than Bill if he got paid for it.And then you got them folks that read nuthin' but mystery books. Those people don't like it any better than that Time feller. One man, well, he said these weren't real mystery stories cause Bill didn't make this windin' trail of clues leadin' you in one direction and then t'other. Said Bill telegraphed who done ever thin by puttin' the key clues in eyetalics, didn't make you guess nothin'.I like a good whodunnit as much as the next man or woman. Read a good many of em. Checked em out of that rack down at Mac's. Down at the drug store where you'd get your pills and a sundae or a coca cola. Just like Bill used to. You could be down there bout nine and most of the late crowd would be down there. Bill'd walk into town from that old place of his and check out the latest ones. If I'd been married to Estelle Oldham, I'd prob'ly been there ever night. One reason I stayed a bachelor. Learned to sew my own shirts on one of those sewin' machines I sold ever place. Mac, he kept up with those books of his. Had check out cards just like at a real library. Funny, but those cards Bill'd sign. They'd come up missin' so Mac just signed Bill's name on all them cards. We allus figgered it was somebody down at the University figgered somethin' with Bill's name on it would be worth somethin' some day.Anyway, I'd read those books just like Bill and everbody else did. I enjoyed em. But you take some swishy Lord Whimsy and that Hellery Queen...well, real folks don't live that way. Leastways not around here.Down here it's pretty sure that somebody does somethin' bad, it's for one reason or the other. The reason's don't change that much. It's money or a woman or some secret nobody wants known that everbody already knowed an if they didn't know it they'd say it was so.Lawyer always had no problem figgerin' out the why the who or the how. Most times it don't take a Sherlock Holmes. But Bill just put it all down the way it was. Wan't no tricks and runnin' you down rabbit holes. There's allus gotta be somebody got to tear another man down so they can be better'n him. Those people like that man at Time Magazine, they can say they just hate to say somethin' Bill wrote just wan't up to snuff but you can read real clear between them lines that they was tickled to say it. Don't think one of em ever won a Noble prize or even a Pulitzer. But I guess they got paid for it just the same. I 'magine that money spent the same as if it come by way of a check from the Saturday Evening Post.Had a feller ask me the other day if I believed in demons and the devil. Said he was goin' to a church where they was prayin' away his demons. Didn't ask me if I believed in God. Way I see it, we humans don't need no demons or devils. We get along just fine being human.So in this book, an innocent man goes to the gallows. Lawyer can't stop it. An people kill other people for money and sex they didn't have or couldn't get or someone else could and did. An Lawyer just kept on trying to get justice. With the law if he could and outside the courts if he couldn't.They ain't gonna be no more Gavin Stevens stories. I think that's a damn shame. Ain't gonna be no more stories by Bill neither. That's a worse damn shame.What'd you say? Did I know Bill. Why sho. I got this card right here. Signed it hisself right down at Mac Reed's. What you got to trade for it? What? You want this book. I couldn't do that. No, they ain't gone be no more Lawyer stories. I just might need to read this book again some time. Yeah, sho Lawyer said the past is never dead. Sho, it's not even past. But I know it's alive on this paper.EDIT: This review is shared once more for the benefit of goodreads group "On the Southern Literary Trail," and, perhaps to draw attention to what is considered to be one of Faulkner's more minor works. However, Gavin Stevens is Faulkner's recurring "literary" lawyer, and figures widely in Requiem for a Nun, Intruder in the Dust, and the Snopes: A Trilogy. Yes, he is one of my favorite Faulkner characters.Mike SullivanFounder and Moderator"On the Southern Literary Trail"


It's not The Sound and the Fury, but it's still William Faulkner. Need I say more?


I read this the summer after graduating from high school, just because I had enjoyed reading "The Bear" so much during my senior year. I don't remember much about it, but I'm sure that it deserves at least three stars...


So, I can say that I have read Faulkner now...


Creepy classics are the best.


Short stories. Reminded me that, yes, Faulkner is captivating, and depressing, and challenging and sometimes just straight up confusing, but he can also be fun.

Michael Mahin

Do you like detective stories? How about detective stories by a Nobel Prize winner? Knight's Gambit is an often overlooked member of Faulkner's oevre because it doesn't represent the Faulkner we're used to. You'll find none of Faulkner's signature stream-of-consciousness here. And that might be a good thing.On a whole the stories are more easily accessible and because of this, Knight's Gambit is a great, simple introduction to Faulkner's South and his major concerns. All of Faulkner's major themes are explored here (Southern identity, the ramifications of slavery on whites and blacks, human being's relationship to the land, the eternal nature of the land, human weakness, the Southern gothic). What makes Detective Gavin Stevens a great detective in these stories is not the hard-boiled, gut-it-out attitude of a Sam Spade, or the razor sharp senses of Sherlock Holmes, but rather his intimate knowledge of the South and its people. This is what allows him to solve the cases before him, and it is also what makes these stories "Faulkner." In many ways, the central mystery of these stories is not a murder or theft or the situation at hand, but rather the South itself. Because it is easily accessible, while retaining Faulkner's signature thematic concerns, it's a perfect Faulkner primer, which is how I used it when I taught a Major Author's course on Faulkner at National University. A great fun read, which you can enjoy in bite size stories. Plus, you still get credit for reading Faulkner.


Everybody knows this is not Faulkner's m├ętier; but it's still an entertaining read. I could really go 4 stars on it. I'm sayin 3 cause I ain't had me coffee yet


'Yes,' the sheriff said. 'The Book itself says somewhere, Know thyself. Ain't there another book somewhere that says, Man, fear thyself, thine arrogance and vanity and pride? You ought to know; you claim to be a book man. Didn't you tell me that's what the luck-charm on your watch chain means? What book is that in?''It's in all of them,' Uncle Gavin said. 'The good ones, I mean. It's said in a lot of different ways, but it's there.'


Not very good considering what Faulkner is capable of. With the exception of the title story. This story brings avid readers Gavin's marriage to that Harriss woman. You know, the one mentioned in The Mansion. Linda won't, not that Gavin can. Can he must, and that Harriss woman is it.


It's hard. It's really hard to have to say that this reallly wasn't all that good. Faulkner is Faulkner. He should never have to have written something so immediately unmemorable. There's really nothing all that interesting about any of these six mystery stories. There may be some moments, yes, but overall these just don't live up to Faulkner. This really is genre writing. There's some Faulkner motifs, but they all lack his key signatures.I liked the point of view the story is told in, but that really does little more than placate to the wishes of the reader. The reader wants to walk through Yoknapatapha County in an Atticus-like character's shoes. I mean, that's who Gavin Stephens is like. He's exactly like Atticus from TKaMB. Then you read through a close third person from the point of view of Gavin's nephew. Gavin's nephew undergoes no changes, neither does Gavin. Faulkner might as well have just wrote about a boy playing with his dog just before dinner.And it obviously wants to tickle around with a centrist's fancy by including occassional non-partisan social commentary. Some stupid comment about the size of a porch and how it could fit a president and his cabinet or a supreme court but might be a little too cozy for a Congress. Some joke about knowing too much law to be a governor but knowing just enough misinformation to be a first class lawyer in a small town. I mean, these were nice jokes--something I myself would use (and I reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaally like Faulkner, so I do cramp his style a bit)--but just going along with the whole FINDING JUSTICE! mission, it was a stupid pairing.Yeah, I dunno. If you've read every single other Faulkner novel, READ THIS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! just so you can get it out of the way and say you've read them all.It wasn't that horrible, but it was a rpetty stupid book. Note that this is the same rating I gave to that Amanda Cross novel. I was going to read another Amanda Cross since I picked one up for next to nothing (and I'll read it eventually, yeah), but now I feel even less confident that some subtle charm might rub off onto me in reading these mystery stories


Imagine the deep, heavy sweetness in the air. Feel the touch of old wood, the smell of tobacco, the law books, the leather. Evocative, thrilling, Faulkner. Enough said,no?


Le da demasiadas vueltas.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *