Archives for posts with tag: Raymond Chandler

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WRITING ADVICE FROM RAYMOND CHANDLER:

  • A writer who is afraid to overreach himself is as useless as a general who is afraid to be wrong.
  • Technique alone is never enough. You have to have passion. Technique alone is just an embroidered potholder… The moment a man begins to talk about technique that’s proof that he is fresh out of ideas.
  • The most durable thing in writing is style, and style is the single most valuable investment a writer can make with his time. It [style] is a projection of personality and you have to have a personality before you can project it. It is the product of emotion and perception.
  • The challenge is to write about real things magically.
  • The more you reason the less you create.
  • Don’t ever write anything you don’t like yourself and if you do like it, don’t take anyone’s advice about changing it.
  • I am a writer, and there comes a time when that which I write has to belong to me, has to be written alone and in silence, with no one looking over my shoulder, no one telling me a better way to write it. It doesn’t have to be great writing, it doesn’t even have to be terribly good. It just has to be mine.

Photo: Raymond Chandler’s novels

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The Night Before Christmas

by Raymond Chandler as told to CJ Ciaramella

It was the night before Christmas, when I first saw the red man. I was settled in my chair in the midst of a long bourbon nap, hand still clutching a highball glass of the stuff, when I heard a clatter, like a body tumbling down a flight of stairs.

I sat up in the chair to see what was the matter. The room was dark, save for the glow of Christmas lights on the tiny tree by the window. At first I thought it was nothing but a dream, when what to my wondering eyes should appear but the outline of a heavyset man creeping slowly out of the fireplace and into the room.

Then I thought about my gat, but it was in my suit coat, which was hanging by the doorway with care.

I sized him up as he moved closer. He was about six-foot-even, dressed from head to toe in a heavy red suit, like some two-bit hustler. His face was hidden under a thick, white beard. Under the suit I could see he was a big man. His belly jiggled like a bowl of jelly as he crept through the apartment. He moved quiet for his size and age. He had a big bag slung over his shoulder. I pegged him for a professional cat burglar or something.

He was halfway to the Christmas tree by the window when he spied me sitting in the chair. We had a nice, quiet moment where we considered each other’s presence.

“Expected me to be in the bedroom, I’m guessing,” I said. “What’s in the bag, Mac?”

He turned his head and laid his finger aside his nose with an impish grin. I stood up slowly from the chair and put the glass on the table.

“Okay, funny guy,” I said. “Okay.”

I went for the coat. He was on me as quick as a flash, awful fast for a big man. The bag clocked me in the back of the head as I reached the coat. Lights popped behind my eyes, and stars and sugar-plums and other silly things danced in front of them.

When I could see straight again, the red man was hoisting me to my feet. He spoke not a word, but went straight to work, planting one of his big, gloved mitts in my stomach, which doubled me over, and another on my chin to straighten me out. Then he tossed me, casually as he probably tossed that bag around, across the room.

“Merry Christmas, shamus,” the red man said real jolly like, throwing me a wrapped package from his bag as I sprawled on the floor. “Have a swell night.”

“How about next time just mail a card,” I said, rubbing my jaw.

He ignored that, walked over to the table, drank my bourbon, and walked out my door, leaving it swinging open.

The package was addressed to me from “St. Nick.” The name meant nothing to me. Inside was a new hat and an emptiness that only gift boxes on dark, solitary nights possess.

I put the tag in my pocket, the hat on a hook, closed the door, and poured another couple fingers of bourbon into the glass. Sat in the chair and waited for dawn or sleep, whichever found me first.

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CJ Ciaramella has written for the Washington Free Beacon, The AwlThe Daily Caller, the San Diego Union-TribuneThe Weekly Standard, the Oregon Daily Emerald, the Oregon Quarterly and the Oregon Commentator, among others.

Illustration: Sodahead

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THE BIG SLEEP (Excerpt)
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.”

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The above photo and passage from Raymond Chandler‘s novel The Big Sleepappear in the superb photo collectionDaylight Noir byCatherine 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 Amazon.com.

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L.A. historian/author Kim Cooper, renowned for her Esotouric bus tours into “the secret heart of Los Angeles,” recently completed her noir novel THE KEPT GIRL — and is offering readers a terrific opportunity to subscribe to the book’s first printing (details at thekeptgirl.com).

The subscription offeravailable from 11/5-12/25/13 — features a variety of benefits, including the subscriber’s name prominently acknowledged in all copies of the book,  which will arrive enclosed in a limited-edition decorative slipcase. Book lovers, collectors, hardboiled fiction fans, don’t miss this chance to take part in a true publishing event. Considering all the benefits, this first-class publication is a tremendous bargain at just $65. A wonderful holiday gift for noir aficionados.

Before Raymond Chandler became LA’s crime laureate, he was an LA oil company executive. Inspired by this historic nugget, Kim Cooper, social historian and co-founder of Esotouric, spins Chandler’s early LA years, a sinister 1920s angel-worshipping cult, an LAPD cop and a heroine who is much more than a ‘kept girl’ into a deeply researched and compulsively readable crime novel.”

Denise Hamilton, author of DAMAGE CONTROL & editor of Edgar Award-winning anthology LOS ANGELES NOIR

ABOUT THIS PUBLISHING METHOD: The Subscription model of publishing flourished in England in the 17th Century. Instead of relying on a single regal (and often capricious) patron, authors and publishers cultivated a select group of literate, engaged readers and collectors whose support encouraged and enabled the publication of books that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive to produce. Through Subscription-sponsored publication, important atlases, geographies, and histories saw the light, along with great literature, including Milton’s Paradise Lost.

ABOUT THE BOOK: Kim Cooper‘s The Kept Girl is inspired by a sensational real-life Los Angeles cult murder spree which exploded into the public consciousness when fraud charges were filed against the cult’s leaders in 1929. The victim was the nephew of oil company president Joseph Dabney, Raymond Chandler‘s boss. In the novel, Chandler, still several years away from publishing his first short story, is one of three amateur detectives who uncover the ghastly truth about the Great Eleven cult over one frenetic week. Informed by the author’s extensive research into the literary, spiritual, criminal and architectural history of Southern California, The Kept Girl is a terrifying noir love story, set against the backdrop of a glittering pre-crash metropolis. To learn more about the book, visit the author’s blog. Sign up for the newsletter to receive occasional updates. Read a sample chapter here.

Kim Cooper is the perfect Virgil to 1929 Los Angeles, a city that was both a paradise and an inferno. Her knowledge of the city that was is unparalleled, her imagination unnerving. The real-life characters and crimes that would give birth to the pulp fiction of the 1930s and the film noir of the 1940s can all be found here. Aficionados of noir Los Angeles will read The Kept Girl with fascination and with growing horror as the terrible crime at its core is revealed.” 

John Buntin, author of L.A. NOIR

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kim Cooper is the creator of 1947project, the crime-a-day time travel blog that spawned Esotouric’s popular crime bus tours, including Pasadena Confidential, the Real Black Dahlia and Weird West Adams. Her collaborative L.A. history blogs include On Bunker Hill and In SRO Land. With husband Richard Schave, Kim curates the Salons of LAVA–The Los Angeles Visionaries Association. When the third generation Angeleno isn’t combing old newspapers for forgotten scandals, she is a passionate advocate for historic preservation of signage,vernacular architecture and writer’s homes. Kim was for many years the editrix of Scram, a journal of unpopular culture. Her books include Fall in Love For LifeBubblegum Music is the Naked TruthLost in the Grooves and an oral history of the cult band Neutral Milk Hotel. The Kept Girl is her first novel.

COVER ART: Paul Rogers.

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“Under the thinning fog the surf curled and creamed, almost without sound, like a thought trying to form inself on the edge of consciousness.” 

RAYMOND CHANDLER, The Big Sleep

Photo: “Fog, Sunset, Ocean — California” by Mike Behnken, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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In this excerpt from The Paris Review interview with Haruki Murakami — bestselling author of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle — the writer discusses the influence of hardboiled detective fiction on his work.

INTERVIEWER: … hard-boiled American detective fiction has clearly been a valuable resource. When were you exposed to the genre and who turned you on to it?

MURAKAMI: As a high-school student, I fell in love with crime novels. I was living in Kobe, which is a port city where many foreigners and sailors used to come and sell their paperbacks to the secondhand bookshops. I was poor, but I could buy paperbacks cheaply. I learned to read English from those books and that was so exciting.

INTERVIEWER: What was the first book you read in English?

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MURAKAMI: The Name Is Archer, by Ross Macdonald. I learned a lot of things from those books. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. At the same time I also loved to read Tolstoyand Dostoevsky. Those books are also page-turners; they’re very long, but I couldn’t stop reading. So for me it’s the same thing, Dostoevsky and Raymond Chandler. Even now, my ideal for writing fiction is to put Dostoevsky and Chandler together in one book. That’s my goal.

INTERVIEWER: At what age did you first read Kafka?

MURAKAMI: When I was fifteen. I read The Castle; that was a great book. And The Trial.

INTERVIEWER: That’s interesting. Both those novels were left unfinished, which of course means that they never resolve; your novels too—particularly your more recent books, like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle—often seem to resist a resolution of the kind that the reader is perhaps expecting. Could that in any way be due to Kafka’s influence?

MURAKAMI: Not solely. You’ve read Raymond Chandler, of course. His books don’t really offer conclusions. He might say, He is the killer, but it doesn’t matter to me who did it. There was a very interesting episode when Howard Hawks made a picture of The Big Sleep. Hawks couldn’t understand who killed the chauffeur, so he called Chandler and asked, and Chandler answered, I don’t care! Same for me. Conclusion means nothing at all. I don’t care who the killer is in The Brothers Karamazov.

INTERVIEWER: And yet the desire to find out who killed the chauffeur is part of what makes The Big Sleep a page-turner.

MURAKAMI: I myself, as I’m writing, don’t know who did it. The readers and I are on the same ground. When I start to write a story, I don’t know the conclusion at all and I don’t know what’s going to happen next. If there is a murder case as the first thing, I don’t know who the killer is. I write the book because I would like to find out. If I know who the killer is, there’s no purpose to writing the story.

Read the rest of The Paris Review interview here.

Photo: Haruki Murakami and cat friend.

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One of my best all-time thrift store finds was a pristine-condition Vintage/Black Lizard edition of Black Money by Ross Macdonald.

Born Kenneth Millar on December 13, 1915 in Los Gatos, California, and raised in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, Ross Macdonald has been called the heir to Dashiell Hammett (The Maltese Falcon) and Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep). Most of his novels — starring detective Lew Archer — are set in Los Angeles and the fictional Santa Teresa, based on Santa Barbara, where he lived most of his life with his wife, and fellow detective novelist, Margaret Millar. Macdonald passed away in 1983 at age 67.

In Ross Macdonald, a Biography, author Tom Nolan writes: “By any standard he was remarkable. His first books, patterned on Hammett and Chandler, were at once vivid chronicles of a postwar California and elaborate retellings of Greek and other classic myths. Gradually he swapped the hard-boiled trappings for more subjective themes: personal identity, the family secret, the family scapegoat, the childhood trauma; how men and women need and battle each other, how the buried past rises like a skeleton to confront the present. He brought the tragic drama of Freud and the psychology of Sophocles to detective stories, and his prose flashed with poetic imagery.”

Here are a few lines from the opening page of Black Money“I walked around the end of the fifty-meter pool, which was enclosed on three sides by cabanas. On the fourth side the sea gleamed through a ten-foot wire fence like a blue fish alive in a net. A few dry bathers were lying around as if the yellow eye of the sun had hypnotized them.”

Find Black Money by Ross Macdonald at Amazon.com.

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“He had one of the rarest qualities in all literature, and it’s a great shame that the word for it has been thoroughly debased by the cosmetic racketeers, so that one is almost ashamed to use it to describe a real distinction. Nevertheless, the word is charm — charm as Keats would have used it. Who has it today? It’s not a matter of pretty writing or clear style. It’s a kind of subdued magic, controlled and exquisite, the sort of thing you get from good string quartettes.”

RAYMOND CHANDLER referring to F. Scott Fitzgerald in a 1950 letter to a friend

Photo: Carl Van Vechten, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Van Vechten Collection, reproduction number LC-USZ62-88103 DLC.

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“A good story cannot be devised; it has to be distilled.”

RAYMOND CHANDLER

In searching for an image to accompany this quote, I discovered an interesting project from 2010, when Just Beer, a brewery in Westport, Massachusetts, released a 12-part hardboiled detective story — on the labels of the company’s India Pale Ale.

According to an article at beerpulse.com“The Case of the IPA” is a hardboiled detective farce printed chapter by chapter on 12 bottles of a newly released India Pale Ale. Each 22-ounce bottle not only has 22 ounces of brilliantly deduced IPA [India Pale Ale], but also 1 of the 12 chapters of the story. Each case has 12 bottles, which makes for the entire tale told in a case. And so, “The Case of the IPA” is indeed a case of the IPA. Brewer Harry Smith proposed the idea to author Paul Goodchild and they quickly agreed on a format: a noir-ish detective serial. Smith brewed up a batch of hoppy craft brew whilst Goodchild penned the story. It’s a mystery of zany brewers and their intrigues; sure to tickle the ribs and please the belly of any fan of craft beer. As this is a bottle by bottle mystery, Just Beer reminds all to “please read responsibly.”

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Chapter 1 from The Case of the IPA

I do not boast. My credentials are those of an intrepid adventurer. They are both obvious as the scar on my cheek and subtle as the squint in my eye. For several years now, I’ve been a two-bit shamus in a dirty, gritty, bluesy, and cool city of some renown. I stepped when the boil got too hot on The Case of the India Pale Ale. It started with a summons from a wealthy brewer named Cornelius Fuggle(no relation). He lived in a swank starter mansion in the ‘burbs. The casual staff showed me to his office, knocked once then gestured. I opened the door, pushing against a stack of papers and books. ‘Mind your step,’ came a distracted disembodied voice. I weaved through the OCD towers of yellowed tomes into a clearing dominated by a giant repro of an ersatz antique chart. Fuggle was plotting a route from Blackwall to the sub-continent, getting data from a mildewed log, fiddling with dividers and a straight edge, drawing with a quill dipped in a well of his own blood. ‘Authenticity!’ he exclaimed then passed out.

Photo: Just Beer’s India Pale Ale with labels that feature “The Case of the  IPA”