July 23, 2007 Leave a comment
About the man who was my favorite writer when I was a teenager, the Writer’s Almanac says
It’s the birthday of crime novelist Raymond Chandler, born in Chicago, Illinois (1888). He’s known for his novels about the private detective Philip Marlowe such as The Big Sleep (1939) and The Long Goodbye (1954). He started out writing second-rate poetry and essays, but couldn’t get much published, so he gave up and took a bookkeeping class, got a job at a bank, and went on to become a wealthy oil company executive.
He lost his job when the stock market crashed in 1929. So at the age of 45 he began writing for pulp fiction magazines, which paid about a penny a word.
Chandler was one of the first detective novelists to become known for the quality of his prose, and he became famous for his metaphors. In one novel he wrote, “She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looked by moonlight.” In another he wrote, “She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.”
Chandler said of Dashiell Hammett, “He took murder out of the parlor room and put it back in the streets where they’re good at it.” Chandler could have said the same of himself. Ross Macdonald, the man who figured out how to make hard-boiled detective fiction work in the era of the Counter Culture, said of Chandler, “He wrote like a slumming angel and invested the sun-blinded streets of Los Angeles with a wonderful gusto and imaginative flair.”