I dove right into my Christmas books and landed smack-dab in the middle of THE WORLD OF RAYMOND CHANDLER, edited by Barry Day.
I can never get enough of Chandler. If you live in Los Angeles and are a writer (guilty on both counts), Chandler is the best kind of required reading because it is immensely pleasurable. To call him a mystery writer denigrates his achievement. He is the master of Los Angeles atmosphere, the sinister side of the plastic paradise. Whenever I drive around LA, especially at night, the voice of Raymond Chandler/Philip Marlowe/ Humphrey Bogart floats into my brain.
"I like smooth, shiny girls -- hardboiled and loaded with sin."
"They went through the silent streets, past blurred houses, blurred trees, the blurred shine of street lights. There were neon signs behind thick curtains of mist. There was no sky."
"Let the telephone ring, please. Let there be somebody to call up and plug me into the human race. Nobody has to like me. I just want to get off this frozen star."
"I do a great deal of research – particularly in the apartments of tall blondes."
"It is not a fragrant world."
"You know what Canino will do – beat my teeth out and then kick me in the stomach for mumbling."
"Trouble dwelt in her eyes."
"He looked as nervous as a brick wall."
"It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window."
"From 30 feet away she looked like a lot of class. From 10 feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from 30 feet away."
"She was as limp as fresh-killed rabbit."
"Under the thinning fog the surf curled and creamed, almost without sound, like a thought trying to form itself on the edge of consciousness."
"The corridor which led to it had a smell of old carpet and furniture oil and the drab anonymity of a thousand shabby lives"
"His smile was as stiff as a frozen fish."
"I called him from a phone booth. The voice that answered was fat. It wheezed softly, like the voice of a man who had just won a pie-eating contest."
"I smelled his sweat and the gas of corruption."
Is that fun writing, or what?
Using quotations from Chandler's novels, short stories, letters, and interviews, English writer Barry Day re-creates Chandler's world in his own words. Chandler did not live a particularly happy life, outside of his long and happy marriage to Cissy Pascal, eighteen years his senior. He didn't discover his destiny/gift (writing) until the age of forty and didn't publish his first novel (THE BIG SLEEP) until the age of 51. He was a heavy alcoholic who clashed with many of the people he worked with (Billy Wilder and Alfred Hitchcock, for instance).
But he could turn a sentence like nobody's business. The novels I write are a "long game." I write for a big, overall effect, but every novel is built sentence by sentence. And there is nothing wrong with singular, unforgettable, almost removeable sentences. Raymond Chandler was a master of the killer sentence, the literary heart-stopper. I intend to stumble into a couple of them myself.
Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe – the first few glorious minutes of THE BIG SLEEP
Raymond Chandler's cameo in DOUBLE INDEMNITY – That's Chandler, sitting in the hallway
Raymond Chandler interviewed by Ian Fleming – Part I
About Chandler's marriage with Cissy