"An Error in Chemistry" (Text Key 4673)

short story

"An Error in Chemistry" is the fifth story in Knight's Gambit, Faulkner's 1949 collection of six detective stories published by Random House. It originally appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine in June 1946 - six years after it was written. Indeed, it was rejected by the Saturday Evening Post in 1940, and seven other magazines subsequently turned it down before it was bought by "Ellery Queen." Faulkner received $300 for the story, and then another $250 because it was selected for second prize in a mystery fiction contest the magazine sponsored. A television version of "An Error in Chemistry," titled "Climax," was aired by CBS on 2 December 1954. The television network paid Faulkner $1,000 to broadcast the adaptation of his story. Like the other texts in Knight's Gambit, "An Error in Chemistry" has elicited limited scholarly response although the story includes Yoknapatawpha County Attorney Gavin Stevens, one of Faulkner's favorite characters; in addition to the detective prowess he displays throughout Knight's Gambit, he appears in over a dozen other texts and plays major roles in Intruder in the Dust (1948) and both The Town (1957) and The Mansion (1959), the last two volumes in the Snopes Trilogy. Although not named in the story, the narrator of "An Error in Chemisty" is Gavin's nephew, Chick Mallison, who narrates most of the other stories in Knight's Gambit and much of those two Trilogy volumes, and is himself a major character in Intruder in the Dust. Our representation of the story is based on the version published in the October 2011 Vintage International Edition of Knight's Gambit.

SOURCES: Joseph Blotner, Faulkner: A Biography; Harry A. Runyan, A Faulkner Glossary; and A. Nicholas Fargnoli and Michael Golay, William Faulkner A to Z: The Essential Reference to his Life and Work.

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Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine
First Publisher Date: 
June 1946
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Vintage International
Edit Copy Publisher Location: 
New York
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How to cite this resource:
Coleman, Robert, and Christopher Rieger. "Faulkner's 'An Error in Chemistry.'" Added to the project: 2018. Additional editing 2021: Ben Robbins, Theresa M. Towner. Digital Yoknapatawpha, University of Virginia, http://faulkner.iath.virginia.edu

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