Tuesday, 21 April 2009

I'm a Fraud

For the last year and a bit, I’ve been acting as if I know a thing or two about crime fiction. Well, I have a shocking confession to make. To date, I have never read any Raymond Chandler novels. Not-a-one. Which is why you’ll find no comments from me in this wonderful thread of posts over at Peter Rozovsky’s place.

I realise that this immediately discredits me in the eyes of many crime fiction fans. But please, bear with me, for I shall soon put this right. Thanks to Jayde Lynch at Penguin UK, I am now the proud owner of a fantastic hardback set of Chandler novels. Check out the official info:

Published in Hamish Hamilton hardback on 26th March 2009, each priced £12.99

The Big Sleep ∙ The Little Sister ∙ The Long Good-Bye ∙ The Lady in the Lake ∙ Farewell, My Lovely


Anything Chandler writes about grips the mind from the first sentenceDaily Telegraph


One of the greatest crime writers, who set the standards others still try to attainSunday Times



The five titles in this 2009 series are being reissued with original Hamish Hamilton early edition covers to commemorate fifty years since Raymond Chandler’s death. The series also celebrates the seventy years that Hamish Hamilton have been publishing Raymond Chandler, whose work continues to be read widely and to influence writers within and beyond the crime genre.



Raymond Thornton Chandler was born in Chicago in 1888, but moved to England with his family when he was twelve, where he attended Dulwich College, alma mater to some of the twentieth century’s most renowned writers. Returning to America in 1912, he settled in California, worked in a number of jobs, and later married. It was during the Depression era that he seriously turned his hand to writing and his first published story appeared in the pulp magazine Black Mask in 1933, followed six years later, when he was fifty, by his first novel, The Big Sleep. Chandler died in 1959, having established himself as the finest crime writer in America.


So there you have it. My confession. I’m a part-qualified crime fiction fan. A fraud. Practically a literary deviant. But I’ve identified my key weakness, and now I’m moving towards a solution.

Soon, my education will be complete. Bring it on!

33 comments:

Chris said...

I'll tell you, I'm jealous; I reread Chandler all the time, but the first read is always the best. Enjoy!

Stuart Neville said...

I must confess to a similar gap in my literary experience. Too many books, not enough time. :(

seanag said...

I'll join the fraud squad too, then, although I have seen most of the movies.

When I was researching this Southern California trivia book I wrote a couple of years ago, I did come across this interesting Chandler facts link. Just to get you started.

adrian mckinty said...

Excellent audio adaptations available for that commute to the city which can be got at the usual places.

Start with The Big Sleep.

marco said...

Quite a lot of tar and feathers needed here, I see.

Adrian, couldn't The Big Sleep in the early morning be counterproductive for his day at the office? ;)

Michael Stone said...

You jammy toerag! When your education is complete I'll let you ship the material over to me at your own expense. I'm generous like that.

I had no idea Chandler was writing way back in the thirties. I thought he made it in the fifties. Shows how much I know. I really need educating. :)

Uriah Robinson said...

What a treat you have ahead of you Gerard.
I was "educated" at Dulwich College in the 1950s when, as far as I can remember, we were discouraged from reading Chandler [because was American] and P.G.Wodehouse [because of his broadcasting during the war from occupied Europe].
I was studying science subjects only from the age of 15 and we were actively discouraged from reading anything that might broaden our outlook on life.
Needless to say as soon as I escaped I read everything Chandler I could find.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Nah, you're not a fraud, you're an original. Just hope Declan Burke doesn't read your post, though.

The movies and their tangled chains of influences are quite something.

My recent reading of Farewell, My Lovely gave me a bit of insight into the Chandler movies and maybe into movies in general. Murder, My Sweet, the 1944 adaptation of Farewell, My Lovely with Dick Powell as Marlowe, has one of those woozy, drug-induced scenes with the kind of woozy, subjective camera work that looks vaguely embarrassing today.

It transpires that the scene sticks closely to the novel, where choppy sentences try to convey Marlowe's choppy, disconnected thoughts. And the scene in the novel is as dated as its movie counterpart. But Chandler had to have been one of the earlier writers in popular or genre fiction to attempt that kind of subjective narration, and he deserves credit for that.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Gerard Brennan said...

Chris - A fine way to look at it. I bet your glass is half full, too.

Stuart - I'm not alone!

Seana - What a cool link! Thanks for that.

Adrian - The Big Sleep. Will do.

Marco - Have mercy, eh? I'm trying to set things right.

Mike - I am, aren't I? I'll consider your offer for a few seconds, okay?

Norm - God bless your rebel heart.

Peter - Sounds like there'll be plenty of food for thought in these novels. I might have to take a leaf out of your book and post some thoughts on the collection as I'm reading, rather than going down the traditional review route.

Cheers

gb

Declan Burke said...

You haven't read Chandler? Man, you're in for a treat ... possibly the greatest treat of your reading life. Meanwhile, and until you've read all the novels (although skipping Playback is permitted) you should probably wear a bell around your neck, tolling as you go ...

Stuart? Sort it out. "Not enough time" to read Chandler? That right there is actual blasphemy.

By the way, I just finished The Twelve, squire ... wonderful stuff, really terrific.

Cheers, Dec

Gerard Brennan said...

Dec - I'd thought all you guys would have come down heavier on me after this confession. I'm more than a little relieved that you all just seem a bit jealous rather than anything else.

Cheers

gb

seanag said...

All is forgiven? Gerard, this is the oldest ploy in the book. Trust me, the tar and feathers are just around the next corner--unless you (and Stuart and I) start burning the midnight oil. Maybe we could each take one Chandler and pool our notes. Kind of like law school. Or at least that's the way they do it in the movies.

marco said...

Trust me, the tar and feathers are just around the next corner--unless you (and Stuart and I) start burning the midnight oil. Gerard has aggravating circumstances : he didn't read Chandler and did read Koontz instead. That's almost a capital crime.

seanag said...

Yeah, it's a bit of a problem. But I don't know that not having read either Chandler or Koontz is actually a better position. Which is the one I find myself in.

Gerard Brennan said...

Marco - I forgot about your less than favourable opinion of Koontz. Remind me, where do you stand on King again?

Seana - I imagine Marco would say you're in the better position.

Cheers

gb

seanag said...

I'm sure he would, but my problem is that I know that Koontz can be a kind of gateway drug that leads to heavier addiction to reading later, especially for teenage boys, so I can't take against him.

Gerard Brennan said...

Seana - Excellent point. He can't be all bad, right? And I guess I shouldn't be ashamed of all the sword and sorcery crap I read as a pre-teen either. Dragonlance was my pot!

gb

marco said...

King

I've read (borrowed) most of his books up until end of the Nineties.
I think his novels began to recycle patterns/characters/situations and often were unnecessarily bloated. There were segments of very good writing but also lots of fluff, and I tended to like him more as a short story writer.

marco said...

Well,I guess it can't be all bad.
And like Koontz, I think Patterson, Grisham and Danielle Steel should also be thanked for all the good they do for the cause of Literacy.

Gerard Brennan said...

Marco - That sounds like an entirely fair assessment of King.

You might be going a little too far with the Patterson, Grisham and Steel quip, though. But I'm pretty sure you're being sarcastic.

You are, aren't you?

gb

seanag said...

Exactly, Gerard. I always cite the way one of my best friends started reading as an example. She was bright, but just couldn't be bothered to try very hard until in first or second grade or so, when she stumbled across a character called Cowboy Bob or something like that. And never looked back. She's now the type that reads Ulysses without finding it a challenge.

Marco, may have mentioned this before, but Stephen King once ended his cross-country motorcycle ride at the Bookshop back door. He was doing promotion for independent bookstores and libraries and we thought he was pretty cool. Although since then he seems to be doing things like doing exclusive deals for Kindle downloads, so his politics may have changed a bit.

I was the bouncer, standing at the door to our buying office while he signed books, and protecting him from weird people who had special requests. Of which there were a few. Also there was a guy traveling around the country stalking him, in a van with bumper stickers saying things like "Kill Stephen King" all over it. He was parked outside the front door there for awhile, but that's as far as it went.

Gerard Brennan said...

Seana - You actually met Stephen King? And kept weirdos away from him? All right, I'm jealous.

gb

seanag said...

I wouldn't say met him. The bouncer doesn't meet the celebrity. I suppose the people on staff who handed him the books for him to sign could be said to have met him. I haven't really read him, although I've read a tiny bit since. But at the time it would have been hard for me to hold a conversation with him without revealing this fact, so I was just as glad. I did go to the talk he gave at the Civic that night, and heard him speak about the value of books in many ways, and I thought he was pretty cool. I'm not someone who thinks he has some kind of lower status because he writes horror, by the way. I just never have read much of that genre. Too scary for me, mainly.

There was one guy who wanted to present him with a totemic stick that he had carved, I remember. I remember trying to be tactful but firm because there was no way anyone was getting near Steven King with something resembling a cudgel. Actually, though, I still see this guy around, and he's a sweet guy and never would have done him any harm. Who knows, maybe its powers would have saved King from his more recent motorcycle accident.

Gerard Brennan said...

Seana - I'd put horror on the same level as crime fiction, literary fiction, science fiction, etc. Some of it's great, some of it's woeful. I don't doubt you feel the same. It's all writing.

gb

seanag said...

Yep--I do agree. Hey, check out my Fifty Grand

blog post A celebrity commenter (no, not Stephen King) thinks he's holding me hostage, little knowing that I've slipped off over here, and am headed off to a party in the non-virtual world.

Toodle--oo!

marco said...

Sarcastic? Moi?

Another thing with King is that, at least in later novels, the good guys always win. Real horror should inspire fear, uncertainty, uneasiness. King morphed into a writer of reassuring adventure fiction.

Horror?
Two Words:
Shirley Jackson.

A few more:
The Haunting of Hill House

We Have Always Lived in The Castle

Two Absolute Masterpieces.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Cool Stephen King story, Seana. Even the bumper-sticker guy, who took reading too seriously. Is he one of the sober but insane types you referred to once?

I'm not a horror guy, and only Stephen King I've read is "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption." The man knows how to tell a story.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Peter Rozovsky said...

In re cudgels and Kings, the host of this blog took me to visit the Republican Museum on the Falls Road in Belfast last year. Among the displays are some beautful objects said to have been carved by prisoners: harps, Celtic crosses and some hurleys. I was especially surprised to see the last, such a powerful symbol, not to mention a potential weapon, emerge from a prison workshop without authorities having put a stop to it.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Peter Rozovsky said...

"Well,I guess it can't be all bad.
And like Koontz, I think Patterson, Grisham and Danielle Steel should also be thanked for all the good they do for the cause of Literacy.
"


I remember my mother once being shocked years ago when she picked up a novel by Judith Krantz or someone of that ilk that my sister was reading. Such trashy subject matter, my mother said, and she writes such good sentences. So maybe those writers Marco mentioned do do some good for the cause of literacy. I draw the line at Dan Brown, though.

==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Gerard Brennan said...

Peter - That's a good line to draw, mate.

gb

seanag said...

I realized as I was remembering back that I must have got that stalker thing a little wrong. Because you can't just wander around with a van saying to kill someone, can you? So I googled it and came up with someone else's sighting, which is here.

I'm sure it's the same guy. There really couldn't be two.

Gerard Brennan said...

Seana - Excellent find! That is gold.

gb

seanag said...

Glad you liked it, Gerard. And glad I managed to get the facts straight in the end.