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.