|How on earth did she expect to escape
that contraption in those shoes?
That Faulkner would lose a mystery short story contest thus admittedly seems kind of incongruous. On the other hand, great literary skill does not necessarily translate into great detective writing ability (and of course vice versa).
For my part, as discussed in my last piece, I think the story that Faulkner entered in the EQMM contest, "An Error in Chemistry," is a brilliant work; but I have not yet read the Wellman story (this is pending), so cannot comment on whose tale really was better. But I do want to explore a bit further the Faulkner-Wellman showdown, because it seems a certain amount of legend has grown up around it.
I've read accounts on the internet that Faulkner attended the awards banquet and was so upset when he heard he had lost to Wellman that he--drunk again it seems--looked for Wellman to start a fight, then saw Wellman was much larger than he and quickly relented (Wellman played center for the football team of Wichita State University in the 1920s; he got his B.A. there before going on to Columbia University and getting an M.A. in literature).
Here follows a representative version, in a comment on Ed Gorman's blog:
You remember the anecdote in which Manly Wade Wellman won an EQMM-sponsored award that Faulkner was shortlisted for, and a drunken Faulkner made himself personally unpleasant to Wellman...who apparently did not take the opportunity to deck Faulkner, though tempted. Faulkner showed up, one gathers, because he both wanted and need the cash prize, but I suspect Dannay got no little delight in rubbing his face in it.
|In this corner--
the Wichita Warrior!
For what follows I am relying on Jeremiah Rickert, "The Faulkner Incident," Oregon Literary Review 2, which may be found here.
This seems a judiciously researched piece and I urge you to follow the link if you are interested in this matter. There's lots more there on Wellman, who enjoyed a fascinating literary career and interesting life in his own right (truth be told, his life sounds rather more eventful than Faulkner's).
According to Rickert, the three finalists for the 1946 EQMM Award were Wellman, Faulkner and T. S. Stribling, yet another prestigious southern writer (indeed, he had already won the Pulitzer Prize back in 1933).
|In this corner--
the Oxford Orator!
Supposedly the popular crime writer Rex Stout was called in to break the deadlock. Stout went with Wellman, making Wellman the winner (ironically, Faulkner himself read Rex Stout mysteries and in his 1949 Nobel Prize acceptance speech may have appropriated, consciously or not, the phrase "the last ding-dong of doom" from Stout's Nero Wolfe mystery The League of Frightened Men, 1935).
After the announcement, Stout shook Wellman's hand, exclaiming: "You deserved it Manly, you wrote a great story!" Manfred Lee congratulated Wellman too, declaring: "You know how I love the Red Man" (Wellman's story, "A Star for Warrior," has a Native American detective). Was Manfred Lee and (and "Ellery Queen") Wellman's "partisan" among the judges? Sounds like it.
|Wellman's award win evidently
prompted him to write a
mystery novel, headlined in this
Signet edition as "A New Mystery
by an Ellery Queen Prize Winner"
Ober saw this as good news for the cash-strapped Faulkner, who was working, like Raymond Chandler, on Hollywood screenplays to supplement his too-meager income from fiction writing. Faulkner, however, was downcast, writing:
"What a commentary. In France I am the father of a literary movement. In Europe I am considered the best modern American, and among the first of all writers. In America, I eke out a hack's motion picture wages by winning second prize in a manufactured mystery story contest."
But three years later, Faulkner was to win the Nobel and he would live the last dozen or so years of his life in company with Ernest Hemingway as the Grand Old Man of American letters, so perhaps things all worked out for the best.
When Faulkner died in 1962, writes Rickert, "the University of Virginia offered their Writer-in-Residency position, held by Faulkner since 1957, to Wellman. He turned them down."