I know Chandler as the mystery author who inspired, among others, Michael Connelly. Connelly is one of my favorite genre authors and cites Chandler as an influence on his work. In fact, Shelf Awareness quotes him (as their Book Brahmin on April 22, 2011), in answer to a question of the book that changed his life: “The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler. I was a casual reader of genre fiction. This book made me want to write it.” Thank goodness for that!
I read The Long Goodbye first (and before the above quotation!), and found it to be delightful. I recognized Connelly in his writing style and Harry Bosch in the style of his lead detective. (Of course obviously the influence went the other way around.) So when I saw The Big Sleep on audio – unabridged, necessarily – I snapped it up. I believe the latter was actually his most-renowned work.
You can’t help but like a guy who doesn’t write that “time passed slowly”, but rather writes
Another army of sluggish minutes dragged by.
That’s pretty great. And this:
‘It’s goddamn funny in this police racket how an old woman can look out of a window and see a guy running and pick him out of a lineup six months later, but we can show hotel help a clear photo and they just can’t be sure.’
‘That’s one of the qualifications for good hotel help,’ I said.
You see my point, right? There are some awfully clever, funny, classic moments in this story; Chandler is a fine writer with a distinct style.
The actual story qualifies, too, as clever, funny, and classic. It’s easy to see that this man is one of the fathers of the genre I love. I’m a bit ashamed to note that I’ve read mostly recent authors, and neglected their heritage.
In this novel, Philip Marlowe, PI, is asked to look into a little matter of blackmail for General Sternwood, who has two young, beautiful, highly deviant and troublesome daughters. Marlowe is a man of relatively few, but quite witty words. He fends off both sisters at various point or another while looking into the missing husband of one, unasked. He’s a classic PI; he drinks alone in the morning; I’m pretty sure he wears one of those pulp detective hats – a fedora? At any rate, he releases the Sternwoods from the blackmail and pulls all the pieces together at the end to explain the missing husband too. It’s a tidy little ending, crowned by some grumbled musings on The Human Situation and The Big Sleep.
I liked this book very much and recommend it to readers of detective fiction who want to go back to the genre’s roots.
Do you read in the present or in the past? Do you miss the past, if you read in the present? I know I love my current genre authors (Lee Child, Michael Connelly, James Lee Burke, Elizabeth George) but it’s important and definitely enjoyable also to appreciate the pioneers. I’ve enjoyed Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, and one little gem from A.A. Milne; I’ve got a P.G. Wodehouse waiting in the wings. What are YOU up to?