Tuesday, 23 July 2013
THE GREAT CHANDLER STILL LIVES
It's 125 years since my favourite crime novelist was born. Raymond Chandler took crime from the polite and cozy living room and sleepy communities of Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to the rough and sleazy streets of LA. In doing so he created a new genre that has influenced crime writers and excited readers for decades.
No one does it like Chandler. Such is the strength of his work that even today we can see characters based on his creation Philip Marlowe.
When I first started writing my crime novel it was very Chandleresque without me even realising how much I'd been influenced by him. However, my main character was slated by my academic writing group as being "too cliché." My detective in this very early draft was called Jack with similar characteristics - but without the Irish twist - to the sleuth created by Ken Bruen who wrote the Jack Taylor novels. Now my "Jack" is a women called "Lou" but Chandler as an influence is still there.
I'd never read any Chandler books before and it had been years since I'd seen the old Bogart films such as The Big Sleep but I clearly wasn't overtly aware of how much impact they had on me.
His writing is literary art. It's easy to read, fast paced, and compelling. But when you have openings like : "...I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn't care who knew it. I was everything the well dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars..." then you are immediately hooked.
I'm currently studying a more academic crime novel In The Name of the Rose and I'm finding it quite hard going - not least because of all the Latin references. It's a bit too clever for itself and not a book I'm enjoying but rather one I'm reading because I have to and I'm finding excuses to put it down and do something else. Suffice to say it is very slow going.
Chandler's work, however, has me so gripped that I'll happily prop up my eyes with matchsticks when I'm tired just to ensure I keep on reading because I genuinely want to know what is going to happen next. He is a writer whose work I just can't put down.
No wonder we're still talking about him more than 50 years after he died and I feel sure he'll still be the subject of conversation another 125 years from now.
And did the world's biggest search engine actually take it's name from something Chandler wrote? I wonder when reading this letter to his agent written in 1953 when he mentions "Google" in relation to sci-fi writing.