Thursday, 16 January 2014

Raymond Chandler

When I wrote about ‘Genre Fiction’ the other day there was one glaring omission: Raymond Chandler. Chandler was an American ‘Pulp Writer’. That is to say, he wrote stories, most of them short, for cheap magazines intended for people who don’t read much, but want something to fill an idle half-hour on the way to work or in a waiting-room. Comics for grown-ups; thrown away when finished.

But he was a good writer, and a friend (and in at least one case enemy) of established ‘respectable’ writers; he cared about literature and his longer books are well worth reading, and not ‘just’ for the very clever well-plotted stories. He is remembered now mostly for the detective stories featuring the private detective Philip Marlowe, now indelibly associated with Humphrey Bogart because of the films made of some of the books in the ’fifties.

Here’s a poem of mine about those Marlowe stories:



Detective Outfit


The frosted glass in the office door
comes as standard, with the hat,
revolver, double-breasted coat —
but yes, you will need more.

You should find, in the bottom drawer,
behind the typing-paper, carbon,
a half-full bottle — Scotch or Bourbon —
most find they soon need more.

Your first case — ‘Innocent or whore?’
has been arranged. The gumshoe’s art
is not to take these things to heart —
we shouldn’t tell you more.

You must supply the square-cut jaw,
the hard-boiled cynic’s laugh, to cover
that hint of disappointed lover —
no-one can give you more.


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