Wednesday, February 6, 2013


I treated myself to a hard-bound copy of Everyman's Library's Collected Stories of Raymond Chandler late last year, and I've read the first ten in the collection—again.  Sure, I've read most of them before in Trouble Is My Business, (also a recent purchase), The Simple Art of Murder, and an obscure little paperback my wife found for me called Killer in the Rain.  Those three books contain twenty of Chandler's stories.  The P.I.s have various names, Mallory, John Dalmas, Carmady, Sam Delaguerra, et al.  They're mostly prototype Phillip Marlowes.  Some are first person narrators, but just as many stories are in third.  

There are some gems, but even the biggest Raymond Chandler fan (like me) would tell you there are some stinkers in there too.  For example, "Blackmailers Don't Shoot," "Smart-Aleck Kill," and "Guns at Cyrano's" are vague, hard to understand, over-written, and have convoluted, specious plots.   

Other stories, such as "Killer in the Rain" are wonderful looks into how a writer developed his characters and plots over the years, from short stories into novels.  "Killer" features many of the basic characters of The Big Sleep, like the pornographer, H.H. Steiner, who became A.G. Geiger in the novel, the psycho-nymph Carmen Dravec, who became Carmen Sternwood, and Guy Slade who morphed into Eddie Mars.

Finally, there are stories like "Goldfish," some 15,000 words, like many of Chandler's stories, too long for today's mystery magazines, with great original scenes, hard-boiled bloodbaths, and a perfect noir finish.  If you haven't read it… do yourself a favor.        

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