Tom Adams’ macabre, surreal, and unsettling covers for classic crime novels
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Tom Adams is an artist best-known for his cover artwork for books by Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Kingsley Amis, and John Fowles during the 1960s and 1970s. He also produced posters for the likes of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Soft Machine and album covers for Lou Reed and Iron Maiden. You may not know the name but you will certainly recognize one of the many book covers he has designed, in particular, those for Christie and Chandler.

Adams’ covers for Christie’s classic whodunnits? were usually painted as collages that featured key scenes (and sometimes clues) from the book. These paintings were macabre, unsettling, and very often surreal. Adams continued this style with his covers to Chandler’s novels where two or three storylines are woven into one dream-like image. Lou Reed was such a fan of Adams’ Christie covers, he asked him to provide a painting for his self-titled debut solo album.

Born in in Providence, Maine, in 1926, Adams studied at the Chelsea School of Art and then Goldsmith’s College where he graduated with a diploma in painting. Adams went onto work on a variety of comics including Eagle where he wrote and illustrated Regimental Histories. In 1958, he co-founded a design company producing murals for various institutions and then furniture for the likes of Harrods. In 1962, he was asked to design the cover for Christie’s A Murder is Announced, which led to Adams designing covers for Christie’s back catalog. However, it should be noted that Adams’ covers for the UK print run differ considerably from the US editions. UK publishers Fontana allowed Adams free reign to create his own designs. PocketBooks in the US commissioned Adams to produce only one scene for the cover. Prints of Adams “alarmingly realistic’ covers are available here.
More dark and disturbing covers, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher
01:52 pm
Raymond Chandler’s guide to prison, street, and Hollywood slang

Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe in Robert Altman’s film version of Raymond Chandler’s ‘The Long Goodbye.’
Raymond Chandler wanted to call his second Philip Marlowe novel The Second Murderer. His publisher Blanche Knopf nixed the idea. So, Chandler suggested Zounds, He Dies, a line spoken by the Second Murderer in Shakespeare’s King Richard III.

Knopf was deeply unimpressed. Eventually, the pair agreed on Farewell, My Lovely which is one hell of a killer title.

This is one of those little sidebars of information contained in Raymond Chandler’s Notebooks which were published long after the great man’s death in 1977. Chandler kept a variety of notebooks during his life. Usually small leather pocketbooks or large writing pads filled with daily events, observations, private thoughts, and details of work in progress. Unfortunately, the bulk of these notebooks was destroyed by Chandler when he was preparing to move to England after his wife Cissy’s death in 1954. Only two notebooks survived. Extracts from these two volumes supplied the content for The Notebooks of Raymond Chandler.

On occasion, Chandler has been unfairly given the rap that he was never as good as his rival Dashiell Hammett, as he made crime writing more about imagination than real hard-bitten, hard-earned experience. Hammett had been a Pinkerton detective. Chandler was a drunk oil exec down on his luck. He was a “gasbag,” according to the Demon Dog James Ellroy. His fictional hero Philip Marlowe was paraded through a series of hoops and jumps which were sometimes incoherent. It’s not a view I would ever agree with. I prefer Chandler to Hammett but think both writers took their writing very seriously.

This can be seen from what’s left of Chandler’s notebooks. He was a very serious writer, who worked damned hard at getting things just exactly right. In his notebooks, he practiced his writing and tried out his ideas. He also used them as a source book for research. From lists of street slang to working out titles, similes, and even writing parodies of other authors like Ernest Hemingway.

Among the many book titles listed in the two remaining notebooks are such unlikely gems:

The Man with the Shredded Ear

All Guns are Loaded

The Corpse Came in Person

They Only Murdered Him Once

The Diary of a Loud Check Suit

Quick, Hide the Body

Stop Screaming—It’s Me

The Black-Eyed Blonde


Everyone Says Good-bye Too Soon

You get the idea Chandler was a fun guy if just a little too shy to get the party swinging.

What interested me about Chandler’s notebooks (well, apart from his notes on writing crime fiction) were the long lists of slang he compiled from the streets and from newspapers, a few of which I’ve shared below.

Pickpocket Lingo

(Maybe New York only)

Saturday Evening Post, October 21, 1950

Cannon—General term for pickpocket (Dip is unused, obsolete)

Live cannon—A thief who works on normally situated people, as opposed to a roller (a lushworker) who frisks drunks. Both men knock their victims. Rousters walk with the victim pretending to help; sneak workers don’t touch him unless he is passed out or near to it.

Pit worker—Inside-breast-pocket expert.

Moll buzzer—Operator on women’s handbags.


Short—Bus, street car, any public conveyance.

Stride—Walking (“On the stride.”)

Shed—Railroad station.



Button—Police badge.

Kiss the dog—Work face to face with the victim.

Tail pits—Right and left side pockets of jacket.

Pratt—Rear trouser pocket.

Stall—Accomplice who creates confusion to fix the victim’s attention.

Right fall—Grand larceny conviction. To obtain there must be testimony that the accused had his hand in the victim’s pocket and was caught with the goods still on him. Most arrests are for “jostling,” which is a misdemeanor good for no more than six bits (months). A shove is enough when the shover is a known operator.

Hanger binging—Opening women’s handbags without stealing the bag.

Tweezer—Change purse.

Stiff—A newspaper or other shield to hide operations.

Wire or hook—The actual live cannon, as opposed to the stall.

Shot—A young pickpocket just starting to work (Harlem cant).

Fan the scratch—To locate money in a pocket without putting the hand in, i.e., by touch.

Dunnigan worker—Thieves who hang around comfort stations hoping for a coat left on a hook.

Note: A cannon never takes your money. He forks his fingers over it and moves away from it with a shove.

The great Raymond Chandler.
More slang from Chandler’s notebooks, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher
10:30 am
Iconic Raymond Chandler covers: The Complete Philip Marlowe Novels
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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.
See more classic Raymond Chandler covers, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher
10:31 am
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
02:04 pm
When Raymond Chandler met Ian Fleming

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
06:05 pm
A Dandy in Aspic - A Letter from Derek Marlowe

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 the portrait while Leonardo is out of the room.”

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

Posted by Paul Gallagher
12:06 pm