After reading The Long Goodbye, Chandler’s become one of my favorite writers. Happy Birthday!
It’s the birthday of Raymond Chandler, born in Chicago (1888). His parents were Irish, and after his father left the family, his mother moved them back to Ireland, and he grew up there and in England. Later, he moved back to America and settled in California.
He wrote pulp fiction about the city of Los Angeles and a detective there named Philip Marlowe. Chandler’s first novel was The Big Sleep (1939), which sold well and was made into a movie in 1946 with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall — William Faulkner co-wrote the screenplay. Chandler wrote seven more novels featuring Philip Marlowe, who became the quintessential “hard-boiled” private eye, tough and street-smart and full of wise cracks. In Farewell, My Lovely(1940), Marlowe says: “I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun.”
Chandler was never any good at coming up with plots. He had to study and steal from other mystery writers like Dashiell Hammett. But he knew how to create atmosphere. One of his early stories, “Red Wind” (1938), begins: “There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that . meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen.”
Chandler is famous for his metaphors. In one novel he wrote, “She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looked by moonlight.” In another he wrote, “She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.