Sunday, March 12, 2006

trouble is my business

"dead men are heavier than broken hearts."
from 'the big sleep'

philip marlowe was the coolest detective ever. he didn't take no shit, from no one, and he always gave a wisecrack back. he had principles that always got him in more trouble than he asked for. but he stuck to 'em. his clients came the highest strata of society. usually they were just as scummy as the scum on the street that he dealt with every day. he treated them all the same, using a quick wit and the gritty slang of the times . he rarely needed or carried a gun, but they were thrown at him like beads at mardi gras. a lone wolf, to say the least, marlowe was forever dealing with some beautiful dame involved up to her pretty neck in blackmail and murder. like a chivalrous knight, he always felt compelled to rescue them. to him, it was just a job ... and all for just 25 bucks a day and expenses.

raymond chandler introduced the hard-boiled, hard-drinking, soft-hearted private eye to the world in his first novel, 'the big sleep'. pulp fiction, and the world, was never the same after. he didn't invent the genre, but he defined it. he took what was already there and made it into an art. using the template of dashiell hammett's style of detective stories, chandler created the world of noir that marlowe inhabits. written concisely and brutally, his words dance from the pages. the stories are visually stunning in detail. stories about scary and sparklingly bizarre characters and set in the art-deco slummed los angeles of the mid-20th century. like ian flemings' super spy 'james bond', chandler's philip marlowe is probably the most imitated private eye ever put to pulp or celluloid. detectives dekard in 'blade runner' and hartigan from 'sin city' are like marlowe's bastard sons. as is robert b. parker's 'spenser' and to some degree even t.v.'s 'rockford files'. there's a reason for this. chandler's books were just so damn good.

i am blazing through all the novels again, from 'the big sleep' to 'playback' and the collection of all his short stories. this'll be at least the third time for each, more for the good ones. 'the long goodbye' is probably the best of the lot. it is chandler in his prime and marlowe at his toughest. the plot line is very tight, a problem that chandler had with a few novels and screenplays. it flows like a dream, woven with shaky men and shakier women, the rich, the crooked and the down-right evil, the story is a real page-turner of a ride. and it's over much too soon, as is the feeling of each of his books. and even though some may seem flat a mundane marlowe novel is better than anything else of the kind. haven't read his unfinished novel 'poodle springs', that was finished by robert b parker in the late 80s. but i guess it'll be on the list next, after reading all chandler's stuff again.

the guy did just about everything before he turned to writing pulp fiction, as is shown in his bio ...
Raymond Thornton Chandler (1888 - 1959) was the master practitioner of American hard-boiled crime fiction. Although he was born in Chicago, Chandler spent most of his boyhood and youth in England where he attended Dulwich College and later worked as a freelance journalist for The Westminster Gazette and The Spectator. During World War I, Chandler served in France with the First Division of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, transferring later to the Royal Flying Corps (R. A. F.). In 1919 he returned to the United States, settling in California, where he eventually became director of a number of independent oil companies. The Depression put an end to his career, and in 1933, at the age of forty-five, he turned to writing fiction, publishing his first stories in Black Mask. Chandler’s detective stories often starred the brash but honorable Philip Marlowe (introduced in 1939 in his first novel, The Big Sleep) and were noted for their literate presentation and dead-on critical eye. Never a prolific writer, Chandler published only one collection of stories and seven novels in his lifetime. Some of Chandler’s novels, like The Big Sleep, were made into classic movies which helped define the film noir style. In the last year of his life he was elected president of the Mystery Writers of America. He died in La Jolla, California on March 26, 1959.

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the adventures of philip marlowe - red wind (1st radio show broadcast 6-17-1947)
elvis costello and the attractions - watching the detectives
new york dolls - bad detective
henry mancini - mr. lucky
art of noise - peter gunn
the skatalites - pink panther
alkline trio - private eye
the aqua velvets - a day in the life of a private eye
of montreal - the events leading up to the collapse of detective dullight
taku iwasaki - adventure of the bookshelf detective
the nips - private eye
fred bongusto - the detective
the firesign theatre - the further adventures of nick danger private eye


Snave said...

I've read "Poodle Springs", and I enjoyed it. The only Chandler I have read is "The Big Sleep" but I need to read more of his works.

Thanks for the article!

sleepybomb said...

thanks mr. snave! well, if you say 'poodle springs' was good, i guess i must seek it out. and if ya get the chance check out some more of chandlers stuff. it is quite compelling. i am truly thinking of becoming a real dick, not the kind i have been so far, but a real pulp kinda dick. the one that has no life, a drinking prob and more trouble than one asks for ... oh yeah, that is me!

Laurie said...

I don't think I've ready any of them. Shameful!

Danno said...

Chandler is the absolute best, Marlowe is my hero, always quick with a shitty comment for someone that deserves some shit.

His descriptions always paint a picture and make me laugh, random example:

Her dark hair was parted and fell in loose but not unstudied waves. She had a smooth ivory skin and rather severe eyebrows and large dark eyes that looked as if they might warm up at the right time and in the right place.

M.A., can you ever picture anyone but Bogart when you read Chandler? I sure as hell can't. The big sleep is one of my absolute favorite all time movies along with the Maltese Falcon. But there is nothing like sitting down to a Marlowe novel with a drink.

General Sternwood: How do you like you Brandy sir?

Marlowe: In a glass.

Great post!!

sleepybomb said...

ms l, you really need to check out chandler. always a great read and gets you in the mood to deal with idiots, which in my line comes in very handy on a daily basis ...

danno, you never cease to surprise me. glad you enjoyed the post, hope it gets ya to read this stuff again. and no, i couldn't imagine anyone else as marlowe. i must've watched 'the big sleep' 5 times while writing this drivel about chandler. it's in my top 10 movies of all time. he could make dust on a desktop seem like the most interesting thing ever in literature. a fuckin' genius!

sleepybomb said...

oh yeah, i forgot ... the line about carmen sternwood after she tries to sit in his lap while he is standing ...
marlowe - 'who was that?'
butler - 'miss carmen sternwood, sir.'
marlowe - you ought to ween her. she looks old enough.'

Danno said...

I love that line as well, and "...then she tried to sit in my lap while I was standing up" Another classic from the next scene:

Marlowe: I don't mind if you don't like my manners, they're pretty bad, I grieve over them long winter evenings, and I don't mind you ritzing me, or drinking your lunch out of a bottle, but DON'T waste your time trying to cross examine me!

Yeah the big sleep is in my top 5, I can watch it every night, it never gets old.

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