follow us in feedly
Iconic Raymond Chandler covers: The Complete Philip Marlowe Novels

0raymchan3.jpeg
 
Thankfully Raymond Chandler was a lousy poet.

Chandler started writing after he was fired from his job with the Dabney Oil Syndicate. He was vice president of the company. Made no difference. He was fired after spending too many days sitting in his swivel chair, foot-dangling, fooling around with his secretary and getting loaded. His alcoholism and absenteeism led to his dismissal. It was 1932. America was in a deep depression. Chandler was in his mid-forties. He had no money, no prospects, a worrying taste for liquor and an invalid wife to support. Chandler later said, there is nothing like losing your money to find out who your friends really are.

Chandler found out he had none.

That was when he made his most radical, most insane, and most important decision of his life. He decided to become a writer.

Chandler had picked up on the Black Mask detective fiction magazine. He read it and thought maybe he could write pulp fiction too. Chandler had once wanted to be a poet. It took him time but he eventually realized he was a poor poet. His poesy had too much verbiage, too much thinking and not enough doing. How different things could have been for 20th century American literature had Raymond Chandler stuck to writing verse.

Chandler decided he had better learn how to write. He signed up for classes in short story writing. He got an “A.”  He studied Erle Stanley Garner by copying out his stories to learn how they were constructed. He read Dashiell Hammett. He read Hemingway. He wrote pastiches of them all.

Hemingway, Hammett, and Garner taught Chandler how to cut the slack in his writing. He later claimed it took him two years to learn how to have a character leave a room or take his hat off. Simple writing, he discovered, was exceedingly difficult. His experiences writing short detective fiction for Black Mask taught Chandler everything.

After five years with Black Mask, Chandler wanted to move on. He knew his short stories were just thumbnail sketches for a much greater work. In the summer of 1938, Chandler spent five months writing The Big Sleep. It was the first of seven novels featuring his hardboiled private eye Philip Marlowe.

Marlowe was a composite of all the other private detectives Chandler had written. He plundered his back catalog lifting plots and storylines from his Black Mask stories. The Big Sleep used plot lines from earlier stories like “Killer in the Rain” (1935) and “The Curtain” (1936). Chandler was more interested in creating atmosphere than just writing plots. His novels were not whodunnits? but rather “whydunnits?” How Marlowe responded to each story was as important as solving the crime. Everything was refracted through Marlowe. It was a new way of writing detective fiction, one that changed everything—and one that would inevitably lead to the Gonzo writing of Hunter S. Thompson where the narrator is as important as the story he is telling.

I dug Chandler from the day I pulled The Lady in the Lake off the library shelf. Chandler hipped me to a world of action and a style of writing that changed my life. I eventually bought up all the Marlowe stories I could afford. Then through time and foolishness, lost them all again. Before Christmas last year, I picked up a boxed set of the complete Philip Marlowe novels. They were the same set of green-spined Penguins I had first started reading way back when I thought these the coolest books I had ever seen. Designed by James Tormey, the covers used colorized stills from original 1940’s Marlowe movies featuring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Robert Montgomery, and Dick Powell.

About a decade ago, I snapped up another set of Penguin Marlowes, this time with iconic, minimalist covers by Steven Marking. Both sets of covers are cool but the contents will always be best.
 
1thebigsleep.jpg
 
7farewellmylovely.jpeg
 
2thehighwindow.jpg
 
See more classic Raymond Chandler covers, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Philip Marlowe’s apartment in Robert Altman’s ‘The Long Goodbye’ is available to rent


 
Four days ago an interesting listing popped up in the L.A. housing section of Craigslist: “At the end of a cul de sac near the Hollywood Bowl, park your car in a garage carved into the hill. Walk through a gated tunnel to a private elevator where you’ll be taken up 6 stories through the hill to the top of a Tuscan tower. Nestled in a quiet walk street enclave high above the bustle of Hollywood Blvd.”

After some more description comes this: “This is the apartment that Elliot Gould’s character lived in in Robert Altman’s ‘The Long Goodbye’. A movie worth seeing if you’re not familiar with it.”
 

 
Well, well! So this is the apartment from The Long Goodbye, Robert Altman’s marvelous, gauzy, very 1970s take on Raymond Chandler’s 1953 Philip Marlowe novel. It’s a very diffuse movie but still packs a punch. (And it’s the second-ever movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger in it.) 
 
The rent is $2,800 a month. If you do rent the place and a guy called Terry Lennox shows up asking for help, tell him to go away. And if you have cats, make sure you stock the cupboards with plenty of Curry—Courry?—cat food.
 

 

 

 

 

 
Here’s the opening sequence, which is probably the best part of the movie and also, you get to see the apartment in it.
 

 
via Lawyers, Guns & Money

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
When Raymond Chandler met Ian Fleming

image
 
Philip Marlowe and James Bond are two of the greatest fictional characters of the 20th century, and this is what happened when their authors, Raymond Chandler and Ian Fleming met for a BBC radio program in July 1958.

Fleming and Chandler talk about protagonists James Bond and Philip Marlowe in this conversation between two masters of their genre. They discuss heroes and villains, the relationship between author and character and the differences between the English and American thriller. Fleming contrasts the domestic “tea and muffins” school of detective story with the American private eye tradition and Chandler guides Fleming through the modus operandi of a mafia hit while marvelling at the speed with which his fellow author turns out the latest Bond adventure.

Chandler sounds slightly squiffy. Fleming breathless. Even so, it is a moment of literary history, as both men, wary at first, reveal some slender truths about their lives and work.

“…You can write a very lousy, long historical novel full of sex and it can be a best seller and be treated respectfully but a very good thriller writer who writes far far better …there’s no attempt to judge him as a writer.”

“[Philip Marlowe] is always confused… he’s like me.”

 

 

 

 

 
Previously on DM

Driven by Demons: Robert Shaw, James Bond and The Man in the Glass Booth


 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
A Dandy in Aspic - A Letter from Derek Marlowe

image
 
I originally wrote this elsewhere, but want to share it, in remembrance of a great writer, Derek Marlowe, who died today in 1996.

Marlowe was the author of nine novels, ranging form the Cold War spy thriller A Dandy in Aspic, the historical A Single Summer With L.B., about Byron, Shelley and the creation of monsters and the partially autobiographical The Rich Boy from Chicago. Marlowe started as a playwright, before moving to prose.

When I interviewed him in 1984, Marlowe told me the story of how his career really started with a bet. A bet between three young writers, who lived together in a flat in London. Nothing unusual there, except these young writers were Tom Stoppard, Piers Paul Read and Derek Marlowe. One day, as they watched Mick Jagger on Top of the Pops, the three wagered a bet on who would make a million first.  It was decided Stoppard would, but Marlowe pipped him to it, with his first novel, A Dandy in Aspic.

I started reading Marlowe in my early teens and he focussed my thoughts about writing. This then is the story of a fan letter I wrote Marlowe and his reply.

Someone, somewhere, has probably written a thesis on fan letters, showing how the turn of phrase, spelling, sentence structure and language, reveal the psychology of the writer.  I can guess the flaws my three or four fan letters reveal about me, both good and bad.  That said, the replies always pleased - a signed photograph, a message from a secretary, a written response.  The reply that meant so much to me came from the brilliant author, Derek Marlowe.

Marlowe inspired me to see the beauty of writing and the power a novelist has in telling their tale.  His books took me away from the comfort of Sherlock Holmes, Alistair MacLean, and the dog-eared ghost stories, into a world of shifting ambiguity, complex relationships, through his dark, witty stories told in his remarkable style.

Marlowe’s response to my Biro scribbled missive was a typed, two page letter, in lower case and capitals.  It is a letter I cherish, for it gave me a sense of what can be made of a life. Derek Marlowe was more than just a novelist, he was a successful playwright, a screenwriter, and an award-winning writer for television.  In the letter he explained how he had started his career after being sent down from University:

“I was thrown out of Queen Mary College, London, for editing and writing an article in the college magazine.  The article was a parody of The Catcher in the Rye reflecting the boredom of college seminars.  Not very funny or special but times were odd then. Besides, I hated University and I think I’d made that rather too clear.

“I began writing plays since I had started a play for the College which took a surprising course.  Continued with plays for about four years, went to Berlin, came back and then I realised, after writing A Dandy in Aspic (I was then a clerk) that I preferred prose to theatre. Besides, the person I was sharing the flat with and had done for six years, seemed better at theatre than me.  He was and is Tom Stoppard.”

Marlowe’s first novel A Dandy in Aspic, published in 1966, was the story of a double-agent, Eberlin, sent on a mission to assassinate his alter ego.  Dandy, as the jacket blurb said:

After a beautifully arresting plunge-in, a spy is assigned - savage irony! - to hunt himself down. And now, hot on his own trail…

Dandy fitted into the sixties’ pre-occupation with suave secret agents and was made into a so-so film starring Laurence Harvey, Mia Farrow, Tom Courtney and Peter Cook, of which Marlowe wrote:

“Regarding the film Dandy..  The director, Anthony Mann died during the filming (a superb man and great director) and it was taken over by Laurence Harvey, the badly cast Eberlin.  He directed his own mis-talent, changed it and the script - which is rather like Mona Lisa touching up he portrait while Leonardo is out of the room.”

 
More on Derek Marlowe, plus bonus clip after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment