Discussion in 'Community' started by Jon_Snow, Nov 3, 2002.
Heat Wave, by "Richard Castle." It's one of the Castle tie-in novels. Should be a fun read.
More Chandler stories!
Smart-Aleck Kill is another story with Mallory, the protagonist of Blackmailers Don't Shoot. I like Mallory -- even if he is, like most of Chandler's protagonists so far, a rather blank slate, a tough guy who drinks and shoots and figures it all out despite a series of double-crosses to win the day -- mostly for his situation, as a private eye working for a Hollywood studio and dealing with a lot of celebrity scandals and blackmail and fixing problems for the studio. It's a rich premise, rife with scandal and intrigue and sensational story potential, as well as just a cool atmosphere, an original twist on the usual private eye. I'm disappointed that Chandler didn't do anything more with Mallory. This story is still clearly an early one, with an ending that stands out as too neat and twists that stand out as too narratively convenient. But as ever, the atmosphere is great and the action fun.
Finger Man. Originally a wholly unnamed protagonist, later revealed/retconned as Marlowe, tells the story in Chandler's first venture into first-person narration. It's a clever, twisting story about a frame job, and Chandler gets progressively more adept in each story at concealing the artificiality of the sudden twists and neat endings from the reader, or maybe it's just that the writing, atmosphere, and story get better such that you stop minding about the concoctedness entirely.
Nevada Gas. With the one-off protagonist here, Chandler veers off from the private eye track slightly to give us a hood who gets sucked into a bigger mess. The plot doesn't quite hold up as well here, but the action and writing are sharp and Chandler continues experimenting with style, pulling away from the single-protagonist POV of earlier efforts to incorporate several POVs into the story.
Spanish Blood. The cop protagonist here is pushed off a case involving a friend due to the typical high-level corruption in Chandler's stories, so he goes after the truth himself. The Hispanic cop is by far Chandler's most unique protagonist so far, falling outside the usual tough-guy archetype, playing more as a good cop pushed into an unusual mystery. He retains a good deal of moral complexity, but it gives a very different vibe to the story. The plot, despite all the left-field turns, holds up probably the most coherently so far, as Chandler's finally gotten it to a point where it's more than just theoretically possible to see the ending coming.
God, pulp is fun.
Hav, I've been wanting to do a similar chronological read through Chandler's body of work myself. With all my other projects, I've set that one aside. But the whole point of my threads is that the next best thing to doing a cool project yourself is reading about someone else doing it. So please keep your summaries coming; they'll tide me over until I get around to doing the project myself.
The Grizzly Maze, by Nick Jans. An unsentimental, non-sensationalized look at the life & death of Timothy Treadwell, who, as some of you may remember, was killed and eaten by a coastal brown bear in 2003 after spending thirteen years literally living amongst them.
Guns at Cyrano's is another example of Chandler changing the formula up a little and exploring more widely. The protagonist here is another PI, but not in the usual mode. He's the penthouse-living heir to a rich and powerful daddy and a soft touch with the staff, ultimately revealed to be so free with his money because he feels guilty over the fact that it was crookedly gotten. Chandler's doing some real characterization here, putting touches on his protagonists other than just being stereotypical tough guys.
It's also probably about time to talk about Chandler's evolving use of the femme fatale. The Mallory stories involved attractive, troubled women, but only as actors in the story, not objects of serious allure to the hero. Finger Man had a lady who suckers the protagonist into trouble, but she's not quite the typical alluring femme fatale type. Nevada Gas was the first story with an actual romantic interest for the main character, a lowlife girlfriend who turned out to be . . . unreliable . . . and he ends the story wanting to run off with her anyway. Now that's a femme fatale -- but she's sort of peripheral to the story. In Spanish Blood, the widow of the victim doesn't appear much in the story herself until the final scene, but she's an old flame of the cop protagonist and she turns out to have done it, and he covers it up for her because of the way he feels about her. But Guns at Cyrano's has the first of what I'd call the archetypal femme fatale, a hot, distressed, and dangerous blonde who gets the whole plot started off by sucking the hero into her situation.
It proceeds through such situations as a fixed boxing match, a nightclub shooting, and a blackmail operation against a state senator until it comes out looking entirely different than it looked going in -- just like pretty much every story so far -- but, like in Spanish Blood, it has a much stronger illusion of proceeding logically and without the sort of outside-the-text curveballs that gummed up earlier stories with aggressive artificiality (a big set of events before the story started involving the POV character working for somebody else and doing things with an entirely different plan in mind that never came up in the text and only gets revealed in the big explain-it-all scene in the end, for example). In fact, the need for big final explain-it-all sequences at the end is decreasing more and more as Chandler gets a better grip on storytelling and gets all the facts out more naturally and crafts stories that tie themselves together instead of relying on un-foreshadowed exposition-bombs to tie it all together.
Pick-Up on Noon Street. As a story that takes place largely in the black quarter of town, this is unusually heavy on the unfortunate racial writing of the day, in which descriptions and roles of black characters are far from politically correct. It's not necessarily that Chandler was racist -- I have no information about that -- but that the way minorities were treated in the conventions of fiction at the time was simply unfortunate. Filipinos actually seem to come off the worst: Chandler only seems to use them when he wants a low-down sort of villain, whereas blacks at least get some roles as friends and allies of the protagonists, even if they are in the roles of cooks and doormen. Mexican-Americans, however, come out extraordinarily well, the only race that does: I can't recall seeing them used as villains, whereas they do get prominently featured as good guys, including as the hero of Spanish Blood and later on as the most decent character in Red Wind, a friendly police detective.
The plot is pretty decent, as an undercover police officer (Chandler again varies his protagonists) gets stuck in the middle of the mystery when he tries to help out a pretty young girl who clearly doesn't belong in that part of town. He ends up running his way through some local bigshots out of a desire not to crack the case or extricate himself from trouble, but to save the girl from exploitation. It makes for a very nice change of pace, sinc
The King in Yellow. A hotel dick named Steve Grayce stumbles into a little mystery and pulls himself out of it. Chandler continues to play with his heroes and move away from the tough-guy archetype, making Grayce a non-drinker where his previous heroes have spent the entire story slamming down bourbon after brandy after scotch (and may I just say that Raymond Chandler has fantastic taste in alcohols). The twist ending is a bit too convenient, but the story is the same old fun pulp. It didn't strike me as a big leap forward, like many of the stories before it, but it's more very competent detective pulp from Chandler, with prose that gets sharper each time.
Pearls are a Nuisance is probably the most fun I've had reading one of these, because it's a gut-bustingly hilarious parody of the private eye story. Walter Gage, the protagonist, is a private eye, a big guy, tough in a fight or so he tells us in first-person narration, a heavy drinker -- but he's got a lovely young girlfriend he banters with and who worries over him and makes him avoid drinking; he's a relative lightweight who, as soon as he touches whiskey, proceeds inevitably to get smashed; he vastly overestimates his fighting skill when he goes up against a real tough guy; and best of all, he's a New England dandy with calling cards and monogrammed everything and fine bespoke suits and unutterably pretentious speech patterns, like a parody of a pompous Englishman. Oh, and he doesn't seem to have a great idea of how to conduct an investigation and sort of gets through it by dumb luck aided by a good instinct and a sharp mind when he's given something to work with. What makes it even more fun is that it's all narrated in first person, so reality clashing with Walter's self-perception makes for truly wonderful passages as Chandler runs wild playing with prose. There's also a great effect as we're given Walter's self-perception as this smart, educated tough guy at the same time that we're given these rather effete tendencies that seem to be merely quirks, but then Walter gets into a fight with his suspect, Henry, and all of a sudden we start to realize that maybe his self-perception is entirely inaccurate, and then he just keeps sort of lowering the reader's opinion of him even as his pompous narration goes on in truly wonderful style, until all of a sudden he's solved the case and maybe he does know a little something after all even though he's still mostly a lucky, pompous fool. Him playing off the affable, very working-class, extremely hard-drinking Henry (Chandler paints a wholly accurate portrait of Wisconsinite alcohol tolerance), whom Walter takes on as a partner for most of the story (and mostly just gets passed-out drunk with), creates a great pair dynamic and another of the few supporting characters to really leap off the page. It's a wholly unique, truly hilarious little experiment in writing, Chandler just running loose and having loads of fun with his writing ability and the pulp detective story tropes. Just magnificent.
Hav, you should read Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice after you finish your Chandler reading. Marlowe puts the reader in a great state of mind before the book.
That opening to Red Wind is actually kind of famous. On the episode of Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour dedicated to Weather, Dylan read those first two lines, about the Santa Ana. That Pearls Are a Nuisance sounds like a hoot.
Trouble Is My Business. Another John Dalmas story, making this the third time Chandler has reused a character, though this, like all the other first-person stories, would have the name changed to be a Marlowe story in republication. It's a fairly standard fully-developed Chandler story, with the PI dealing with a bunch of rich people and crime bosses and gunmen and a smart dame -- one Dalmas falls for and actually ends up with at the end of the story for the first time, though the story points out that it didn't last -- and of course it wouldn't, not in a pulp story. You can also see Chandler pulling farther and farther away from the traditional ultra-cool tough-guy archetype in each story, as Dalmas here points out how infrequently he gets the drop on anybody, as he's constantly having his gun taken away from him by toughs and being slow on the draw -- though of course he still ends up ahead anyway, just more humanly. Great good fun.
I'll Be Waiting. A pretty short story, published in the Saturday Evening Post rather than a pulp magazine. Chandler, apparently, didn't care for the constraints of a more mainstream publication, but I think they helped him deliver a very tight, polished work. In it, a hotel detective spends a little time with a pretty young sleepless guest in the hotel parlor, just chatting, and then receives a warning from his brother that her man, an ex-con, is coming there to meet up with her after getting out of prison, but some gambling types have a hit on him, and he should get the girl out. Instead, not even understanding his own motivations, Tony the detective tells her man to bail when he finds out he just checked in . . . only to then hear that the gambling types made their move on him as he was leaving . . . and he killed Tony's brother. It's a simple story with a gut-punch of a final twist, but never an actual mystery. It's all atmosphere and character and prose and feeling. It's great.
The Big Sleep. I've already seen the movie, and it starts out incredibly identical to the movie before slowly diverging more and more, which is really the right way to do such a thing. So either way, you start out with a sense of familiarity and a great premise, and then you get really two different stories based on the same premise. A lot of the difference is because the movie version had to cut all the sex out from the book, but then it just dropped its own different sex back in, so whatever.
Chandler's prose is as good as ever, and the plot benefits from being novel-length, as all the twists have more time to breathe rather than being packed in so closely. You also get more character out of Marlowe (who's pretty much a repackaged Carmady but with several new twists to set him apart, such as the fact that he rarely carries a gun) and a very clear ending (the movie's famously muddled one clearly came about because it simply couldn't deal with large chunks of the story's plot openly due to the production code and its desire to punch up the romance mandating some changes that the original plot simply couldn't account for). Magnificent story.
I've just finished the latest Discworld book, "Snuff", which is awesome because it's ALL ABOUT VIMES.
And I've started reading "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follet. I watched and loved the mini-series, and I wanted to read the novel. I also bought the sequel, "The World without End", along with it, which I understand they're filming right now (I know some scenes were filmed in various places around Slovakia, including the St. Elisabeth Cathedral in Kosice, where I now live ).
Farewell, My Lovely. I inhaled some of my drink. "It's not that kind of story," I said. "It's not lithe and clever. It's just dark and full of blood."
Chandler manages to weave together two mysteries, starting with Marlowe being unwittingly caught at the scene of a crime. The very amusing lazy, burned-out detective assigned to the case leans on him to do all the footwork for him and can't be bothered himself, which combines with Marlowe's own inherent curiosity to keep him nosing around the case. After that, he gets hired for a job that goes south, and his curiosity and sense of obligation keep him chasing after the solution to that scenario as well. Of course it turns out that the two cases are related -- a bit too neatly, it seems, due to the suddenness of the resolution, but the story works well anyway. The characters, including supporting characters, are strong, the prose outstanding -- Chandler experiments with these sort of surreal stream-of-consciousness passages of narration when Marlowe gets discombobulated -- and endlessly quotable, the dialogue witty, and the plot absorbing. What really stands out, though, is the way Chandler is really bringing Marlowe to life as a character, with his insatiable curiosity; inability to close his big, flippant mouth; and buried sense of personal honor helping to define him as a genuine character with a personality, not just a pulp tough.
The High Window. The characters here don't pop quite as much, but some of them are pretty memorable and the plot works. Chandler also delivers blistering commentary on the rich, and hanging around in that milieu for the whole book means that it does lose a little of that gritty underworld edge. Probably the most interesting thing is the way Chandler's usual digs at Hollywood and pulp and mystery convention kick up a notch, most notably in a scene in which Chandler gives us a description of a nightclub, and then has Marlowe rag about how utterly cliched and perfectly Hollywood the whole scenario is, and in the final scene, where Marlowe and his suspect banter about the conventions of mystery reveals, and Marlowe takes them apart and says it's not going to be like that, and then Chandler has Marlowe give us all the conventions Marlowe just ripped in his big mystery reveal. Chandler's self-aware enough to know what he's doing, but he's also conscious of the fact that it works.
Robopocalypse by Daniel Wilson. Can't put it down.
I haven't read the other two, but I love The Big Sleep. It's just bleak and horrible and dark and the ending is really quite perfect.
Yeah, Chandler's work is not really a paean to the human spirit. There isn't really a single character in his works who isn't nasty, dirty, corrupt, evil, despicable, criminal, or at the least morally compromised. The truth is more likely to be buried in a coverup than outed. It's a very bleak world he's created. But damn if it isn't compelling and stylish and absorbing for all that.
The Lady in the Lake. Probably the first time that there's a clearly telegraphed solution to the mystery and I had it figured out in advance, which is really a sort of advance in coherent storytelling. So there's not a ton of surprise, but there is a really awesome storyline with a lot of twists for Marlowe to follow and a lot of situations to get into and out of. It's a sharp story sharply told, and I'm never going to get tired of Chandler's prose.
The Little Sister. Chandler finally digs into Hollywood with Marlowe, and gets out of it his most biting criticism of Los Angeles yet. And Chandler is great at biting criticism, delivered with a certain smiling casualness. The mystery works. Marlowe is in fine form. There are gangsters and crooked cops and half-crooked agents and sex-crazed actresses and a neurotic small-town girl from Kansas with a lot of problems. Who could ask for more?
Really? World Without End is being made into a miniseries? POTE was great. I look forward to the follow-up.
The Long Goodbye. The lengthiest of Chandler's novels, with Marlowe again getting involved in two different cases that tie together. Chandler starts digging into Marlowe personally a bit more, as one case stems out of an unlikely friendship he develops out of his own constant inability to mind his own business, and the other out of a twisted personal situation he gets himself into, becoming almost-friends with a writer he's hired to mind (and, yes, Chandler gets heavily into discussing writing). The story encompasses a lot while staying coherent and the solution to the mystery can be divined in advance without being overly blatant. Plus standout characters with surprising depths. Chandler also leavens his deep cynicism about modern society and humanity in general with a slight edge of optimism for the first time. Quite possibly his best novel.
This is the 3rd in a series of books for the MMO Eve Online. It is a direct sequel to Empyrean Age. The 2nd book The Burning Life is not needed(and acording to every review unwanted).
Playback. Chandler's final (completed) novel, it's a bit thin on plot, with the most straightforward and non-twisty plot and lowest-key resolution you'll get in a Marlowe novel. What's striking is just how non-dark-and-cynical the book is. There are dark spots -- pretty much everybody gets away with their crime because Marlowe seeks purely to satisfy his curiosity about the case he's gotten involved in rather than get justice -- but there are major genuine bright spots, which you'd never have predicted going in. Marlowe encounters not just a good cop, but a whole good police force, one that treats him decently, gives the boot to a jackass who thinks he's big stuff because he runs a podunk North Carolina town and has gotten used to getting his way, and is honest and helpful rather than corrupt. He also ends the story with a call from a woman from The Long Goodbye, a tangential character there who had fallen in love with him, slept with him, and proposed to him, which he of course declined because he's unsuited to marriage. But he's carried a torch for her since, and this time he accepts when she wants to get married again. It's a strangely hopeful and sentimental ending for Chandler's hero, even if it does suffer a bit from Chandler's clumsiness (seen in most noir of the era) with actual romance, in which a couple repartee-filled interactions and sex equals all-time love. As a mystery novel, it's Chandler's weakest, but it's one of the most intriguing in examining Chandler as a writer.
Shadows of the Apt 5. Really a very entertaining series thus far.
Yes, it is. I'm really looking forward to it, mainly because POTE was awesome, but also because Miranda Richardson is in it.
This author knows what he is doing.
Up Against It