Thursday, May 29, 2008

Chandler

I consider myself a fan of crime fiction. This year is the first time I have read Raymond Chandler, which makes me a stupid fan of crime fiction. Having just finished the Long Goodbye, I think I will have to lay off crime books as all will pale in comparison. This book has provided the blueprint for countless following volumes, but it is well written enough to appeal to those who normally look askance at the genre sections of the store.

I view the downfall of Chandler's followers as drawing the wrong lessons from his books. Everyone has hard drinking loner PIs who turn a critical eye at society and particularly the powerful, but Chandler's Marlowe, particularly in the Long Goodbye, has a strong moral code that isn't just character detail but is critical to the story and it's development. The inherent critique of society is all the stronger for the near complete failure of others to live to any code at all.

Chandler's vision of the world isn't as starkly dark as that of James Ellroy or Jim Thompson, but his characters tend to be as venal as any found in those more explicit authors. His world is more depressing as it seems more realistic.

For an interesting study of the creation of Long Goodbye, read this.

2 comments:

CitizenReader said...

I've only read one Chandler book, and that was a long time ago, but I remember LOVING it. Thanks for the reminder of how great he is. May be time to pick another one of his books up--thanks!

Tripp said...

They are definitely solid and well worth your time. I hear the only ones to avoid are Poodle Springs and Playback. Otherwise, have at it.

One thing Chandler doesn't do as well as the more modern writers is developing the city as a character itself. His LA is a pretty thin one.