July 27, 2012

Farewell My Lovely

by Raymond Chandler

At a Readercon panel on “What Writers Want,” Peter Straub went off on a terrific tangent about the development of Raymond Chandler. He talked about how Chandler’s first plot (The Big Sleep ) was a shaggy dog, and how much more tightly plotted the later novels were – even though they always include strange notes (a repetitious cop called Hemingway) and long excursions (a three page taxonomy of The Blonde).

My notes said Straub was talking about The Long Goodbye. To be sure I didn’t forget, I also made a note on my phone reminding me that Straub said to reread Farewell My Lovely. So, despite copious notes, I had no idea which one to reread. (Answer: Hemingway’s here, the blondes are in the other book.)

Chandler and Hammett occupy an interesting cultural space. Unlike Hemingway, you aren’t told to read them in school. But everyone has to read them, and everyonbe does. (You can skip Playback and, for Hammett, The Glass Key.) Indispensable.