Archive | May, 2014

Raymond Chandler, his hat, and the mechanics of writing

11 May

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I admire Raymond Chandler and I love his hat. It’s straw unlike his writing.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with him, Chandler was probably the godfather of the hard boiled private eye. That may sound like a Bedouin dish but it’s a description of a certain literary genre.  The pulp school of crime fiction. Chandler was an interesting character himself. Raised partly in the barren mid west of Nebraska and partly in an English public school, his metaphysical trajectory included stints as an accountant for an oil company and an alcoholic. The alcohol produced blackouts, he forgot to go to work and he lost his comfortable job which left him holding his hat. It was the tail end of the depression and Chandler lived at that time in Los Angeles. It was a lawless, corrupt place with bruising you couldn’t see.

Chandler had been dabbling in poetry since he was a schoolboy. He now had an opportunity. He decided to become a writer.

At that time, there was a magazine called The Black Mask. A pulp offering launched in 1850 by journalist H. L. Mencken and drama critic George Jean Nathan as a money maker to prop up a more literary offering, The Smart Set, “a magazine of cleverness”, was an American magazine of literature and culture.

Chandler was an intelligent man who approached his pulp writing with a scientific mien. Like Ernest Hemingway he laboured over unfussing his writing. It was all about the mechanics.

Chandler’s most famous invention was Philip Marlowe, the world weary gumshoe … sorry I had to say that. His novella’s – The Big Sleep and Farewell My Lovely are classics of the genre.

He wrote sentences like this

‘It was a good crowd for a Tuesday but nobody was dancing.”

Here’s to Raymond Chandler.

Do you think there’s some merit in cutting out the flap doodle.

On the internet no one reads anymore.

Remember Raymond when your writing.

Everybody loves Raymond.