Mstation Book Reviews
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Sat, 29 Sep 2007

Raymond Chandler

Having got through a few Hiaasen books during the summer, we followed up with a few more of Raymond Chandler. While comparisons might be odious, it is a little inevitable that they might be made in such circumstances and in comparison to Chandler, Hiaasen seems cartoonish and rather lacking in plot originality after a few reads... or rather, we have a lot of the same plot - evil politicians and developers seek to massacre yet more of Florida and are fittingly exterminated in gross ways by somewhat eccentric forces. The cartoonishness is, of course, one of the likable things about the books.

Raymond Chandler is a different kettle of fish altogether. Born in the US, educated in England (Dulwich College), he came third in the Civil Service exam, worked at the Admiralty for a year, wrote poetry, went back to the US, served in WWI with Canadian forces, and then ended up in LA. After some problems with alcohol (which continued) he took up writing crime novels and his first was The Big Sleep, which like many of his books, was made into a film.

Dashiell Hammett was said to be the inspiration for his writing style but Chandler added quite a lot of his own to the so-called hardboiled style. There is poetry in his loving descriptions of LA in the 30's and 40's and his main hero, Philip Marlowe, is a likable laconic who pursues truth whatever the cost, and has frequent doomed romances while pouring hmself endless drinks.

The plots are also suitably and enjoyably devious. All of this adds up to some pleasant reading. If you happen to be from LA and are somewhere else, Chandler will make you homesick for the place and for another time. The fact that these books have migrated from the Crime sections of bookshops to the Literature section says something about the regard he's currently held in.

Vintage Books publish a nice range of Raymond Chandler in better than average quality paperback form. We liked best The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye.

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