writing

Trouble is my Business [Repost]

I’m continuing to dig through the archives that failed to ‘port over to this host. This post was originally published Dec. 18, 2014. I will always love the English language, and lines like these are a small sample of why… 

I’ve been reading a collection of stories by Raymond Chandler the last few days, when I got stuck on the writing and wanted to soak up a little more flavor. I’d gone through all the Spillane we own (that is, none of the Mike Hammer books) and I’m disinclined to shell out $6-7 each for the slim novels on Kindle. But while I was shopping for Noir fic, I’d found this one, for only $2,(price is up to $3) and figured it was worth a little cash.

I was right. I’m sure I’ve read Chandler before, if nothing else, the Philip Marlowe name is familiar. But right now, reading with a specific focus, I’m really enjoying the man’s turn of phrase.

“I’ll play with you,” he said softly, and put a moist fishy little paw in mine. I shook it carefully, so as not to bend it.

“There was a tall blonde with him who had eyes you wouldn’t forget.”

“All this took a couple of seconds and felt like half an hour.”

“Nothing lived in his face but the eyes. Black eyes, deep-set, shining, untouchable.”

“For under-arm shooting that was something to be almost bashful about. It was too good.”

“He stood stiffly as a scorched tree, his face as white as snow, with the dead man at his feet, one linked hand reaching up to Louie’s hand. There was the horror of a thousand nightmares in his eyes.”

“I went out like a puff of dust in a draft.”

“She was so platinumed her head shone like a silver fruit bowl.”

“Her face fell apart like something you see in a nightmare. Her mouth and eyes were black hollows.”

“The rain touched my face with fingers of ice that were no colder than her fingers.”

“The big guy wasn’t any of my business. He never was, then or later, least of all then.”

“Her evening gown was cut so low at the back that she was wearing a black beauty patch on her lumbar muscle, about an inch below where her pants would have been, if she had been wearing any pants.”

“One of those perfumes you don’t notice until they are gone, like the last leaf on a tree.”

One thing about Chandler’s private eyes, they never make good. They never get the girl, mostly they don’t get the money, and sometimes they don’t get their man. It’s depressing as hell if you let yourself dwell on it. But the language, the interpersonal actions and reactions, they resonate with an era gone by. I don’t know if there were ever people like this, but they feel right.

6 thoughts on “Trouble is my Business [Repost]

    1. He’s well worth the time and effort. A novel, back in the day, was usually 40-60K words, so it’s not a huge time investment.

      Chandler, Hammett, Spillane – there are others, but if you read those three, you get the essence of Noir, and it’s worth the trip into a darker place.

  1. I remember reading the Mike Hammer novels when I was much younger, but I didn’t read Hammett or Chandler.
    I just put The Big Sleep on my Kindle for three dollars, but thirteen ninety nine for the Kindle version of The Maltese Falcon means not only no, but absolutely no. (and I may have added a bad word) I may have to blow the dust off of my library card for that one.
    “Time for reading” he whispered, “Retirement means time for reading” and a small crooked smile made a permanent home on his face.

  2. I might put Chandler and Hammett together; I’m not sure I’d put them with Spillane. Mike Hammer styles himself a killer, trained to be a better killer by the Army; the books reflect that. You’d be hard put to represent that in either of the others’ books. For comparison, the Continental Op does his share of killing in *Red Harvest*, but he’s no Mike Hammer. Hammer is also vengeful, the incarnation of the lex talionis. The Continental Op is not, and Marlowe seeks justice. “Down these mean streets a man must go, a man who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid…” does not in any way describe the Spillane novels.

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