Chandleresque (Guest Post at Lilac Reviews)

More than one person has generously compared my book A Long, Hard Look to Raymond Chandler.

One person asked why, and posted my answer at her review website.

Give it a read. Comment. (Let’s make others think I have a huge audience of loyal supporters, eh?)

Lilac Reviews

Who’s Your Mentor?

Joel D CanfieldI was born precisely 9 months after Raymond Chandler died.

Perhaps there was only room for one of us at a time.

Perhaps that’s a stretch.

His books are what made me want to write. It took me ages to get a bunch of business books under my belt and develop the courage to try mysteries.
Raymond Chandler
I am particularly proud of my latest effort, A Long, Hard Look. It has been compared to Chandler, though once again, modesty (fear?) forces me to wonder if it’s a stretch.

I call what I write “Chandleresque cozies.” … more … “Who’s Your Mentor?”

Why I Want to Be Raymond Chandler When I Grow Up

Raymond Chandler has the second most distinctive voice in fiction. (Dr. Seuss has the first.)

I’ll pretend you don’t already know everything there is to know about Chandler and his invention of mystery noir and creation of the most human detective in the genre, Philip Marlow. I’ll also assume you don’t need the full story, just enough tease to make you want to find out for yourself.

At the age of 54 the Great Depression took his job as an oil exec. (What a wasted life that would have been.) He published his first short story a year later, and his first novel 7 years after his life change.

The Big Sleep.


The Big Sleep.

Yes, I’m shouting.

Writers and readers and lovers of the mystery genre will live in its shadow eternally. It is a universe unto itself.

The first paragraph annihilates all the foreshadowing of Poe (inventor of the mystery story) and Hammett (creator of Sam Spade, author of The Maltest Falcon which is the greatest mystery film ever made.)

Approach this with an open mind. Let the words be what they are and not what you expect. And hear the voice of Philip Marlowe, a man who sees the darkness around him and knows irrevocably his duty to bring light.

It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved, and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.

Try reading that aloud and not sounding like the wise-cracking tough guy from the movies. This is that guy, the original.

Look at what meaning he conveys in a paragraph full of non-meaning: a man who shares that much about his clothing is clearly a careless dresser. A man who announces he’s sober, well, if that’s news, we know one more thing about him. And a man who says he doesn’t care who knows it — this is a man who feels the weight of society’s disapproval and wishes he didn’t.

In fact, he shares precisely two facts of any value in that paragraph:

  1. he’s a private detective; and
  2. his client is wealthy.

You will never once care that it is October or that it’s a gloomy rainy day, although Chandler is brilliant at giving us enough environment to let our unconscious put us there with Marlowe. We may or may not see the black wool socks with blue clocks on them again. We will not care, either way (though Marlowe’s attire is at least a hint of the time period.)

Whether you care about mysteries or not, The Big Sleep is an important book and should be read by any writer of fiction.

I had some fun with it at my personal site.

Vicarious Experience Depends on Description

photo by Bill Davenport descriptions written by masters like Chandler aren’t there so we know what a wing-back chair looks like or because the cigar smoke plays a role in the book.

Psychologically, statistically, we are conscious of less than 1% of what we experience. The other 99% goes to our unconscious, bypassing our conscious mind.

But we still experience it.

If I don’t know that your protagonist is a little chilly, or that the drapes are green, or the woman at the next table is wearing flats instead of heels, how will you connect with my unconscious, touch my memories, dredge up what I’m afraid of, or willing to fight, or fight for?

Chandler wrote great long paragraphs of what most authors would call “description.”
… more … “Vicarious Experience Depends on Description”