Archives for posts with tag: crime fiction


On Tuesday, July 23, 2013, I was one of the lucky people with a ticket to an elegant and enlightening event — Raymond Chandler’s 125th birthday celebration. Hosted by Richard Schave and Kim Cooper — the brilliant minds behind the Los Angeles Visionaries Association (LAVA) — the party started out in the noir glamor of the “Invention” bar at the Los Angeles Athletic Club at 7th and Olive in downtown L.A.

The L.A. Athletic Club is where Chandler, who worked across the street at the Dabney Oil offices, came to exercise — his elbows, wrists, and hands — by drinking at the bar and playing bridge. Lucky for us, since this is where the master gained so much of his insight into Los Angeles and the movers and shakers who ran the town.

The festivities then moved to the club’s ballroom — outfitted with pillars to keep the swimming pool on the floor above from crashing through. (It may not be easy to dance around pillars, but it’s easier than dancing under water.) There was no dancing on this particular evening — though one of the speakers, Sybil Anne Davis, who knew Chandler as a child, informed us that “Ray,” as he liked to be called, was a wonderful dancer.


Davis’s mother Jean was Chandler’s last secretary — working for the author in La Jolla, California, during his final years . (Chandler passed away in 1959.) As a child and young teen, Davis and her brother spent a great deal of time with Chandler  (photo of Sybil and Ray at left) — and she offered many anecdotes about his humor, charm, kindness, generosity, and wit. From her mother, she inherited Chandler’s library — consisting of hundreds of books — and read us many of the inscriptions that Chandler had written to his wife Cissy as well as Cissy’s inscriptions to “Raymeo.”


Sybil also showed us a truly iconic piece of art — Raymond Chandler’s silver cigarette case, engraved with his initials: RTC. (See photo at right of similar case.) As all noir lovers know, the cigarette is emblematic of the genre — so I was truly awestruck to be in the same room with this remarkable item. Later, when I had the chance to speak with Sybil Davis, I asked her in a whisper: ” Do you think I could hold, even for a second, Chandler’s cigarette case?” Davis, an effervescent and affable woman — and an attorney by profession — agreed, but by then we were advised to head for the elevators because we were moving across the street for a tour of the Oviatt Building, which served as a setting for Chandler‘s novel The Lady in the Lake.

….to be continued.

by Raymond Chandler

We drove away from Las Olindas through a series of little dank beach towns with shack-like houses built down on the sand close to the rumble of the surf and larger houses built back on the slopes behind. A yellow window shone here and there, but most of the houses were dark. A smell of kelp came in off the water and lay on the fog. The tires sang on the moist concrete of the boulevard. The world was a wet emptiness.

We were close to Del Rey before she spoke to me for the first time since we left the drugstore. Her voice had a muffled sound, as if something was throbbing deep under it.

“Drive down by the Del Rey beach club. I want to look at the water.”



The above photo and passage from Raymond Chandler‘s novel The Big Sleep appear in the superb photo collection Daylight Noir by Catherine Corman, with a preface by Jonathan Lethem. A series of photos from the book — including the photo of the Del Ray Beach Club above — were featured in a review by Rollo Romig in The New Yorker (October 7, 2010).

Photo: Del Ray Beach Club by Catherine Corman, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Find Daylight Noir by Catherine Corman at


In 1947, Humphrey Bogart and wife Lauren Bacall starred in the film adaptation of David Goodis‘s noir novel DARK PASSAGE (1946). The book also served as inspiration for the television series THE FUGITIVE (1963-1967) starring David Janssen.

David Goodis — who never achieved the status of fellow noir writers Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett — has been called “The Poet Laureate of the Bleak.” He died in 1967 at age 49.


With his work often out of print, the prestigious Library of America decided to solidify Goodis’s place as a top noir stylist by in 2012 issuing GOODIS: Five Noir Novels of the 1940s and 50s. The Library of America states as its mission “to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping in print, authoritative editions of America’s best and most significant writing.”

Here’s an example of Goodis‘s prose — the opening passage to his 1947 novel NIGHTFALL:

It was one of those hot, sticky nights that makes Manhattan show its age. There was something dreary and stagnant in the way all this syrupy heat refused to budge. It was anything but a night for labor, and Vanning stood up and walked away from the tilted drawing board. He brushed past a large metal box of water colors, heard the crash as the box hit the floor. That seemed to do it. That ended any inclination he might have had for finishing the job tonight.

Heat came into the room and settled itself on Vanning. He lit a cigarette. He told himself it was time for another drink. Walking to the window, he told himself to get away from the idea of liquor. The heat was stronger than the liquor.”