Home > Book Reviews > Writers of interest – Raymond Chandler

Writers of interest – Raymond Chandler

I don’t normally read crime fiction; I’ve never been interested in the genre. It’s for this reason that I only vaguely knew  of Raymond Chandler until I picked up a re-released edition of his first novel, The Big Sleep, two or three years ago. The novel came highly recommended, but then so do a lot of books that I don’t especially care for. I enjoyed The Big Sleep and its protagonist Philip Marlowe so much that I immediately tracked down the rest of Chandler’s novels, most of which can be found in two Penguin 3-in-1s (as I have them) or in the two Library of America volumes as pictured above. One of those 3-in-1s contains what I believe to be Chandler’s best three novels: The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely and, greatest of them all, The Long Goodbye. I was staggered by these novels when I first read them, and on recent re-reading I am just as impressed. If you want to read Chandler, then grab this 3-in-1 and go from there.

The other 3-in-1 contains three good, although in my opinion lesser novels: The High Window, The Lady in the Lake and The Little Sister. I’ve only read these once, and they are all above average novels (The Lady in the Lake had the most appeal to me out of these three), but none as as good as the aforementioned trio.  Chandler’s seventh and final novel, Playback, is weaker still, but not without some interest to the Chandler direhard. There is an eighth novel in existence, Poodle Springs, but Chandler died after writing only a few pages, and the book was completed by Robert Parker after Chandler’s death. I have a copy but I haven’t read it.

Chandler did write short stories as well, most of which were originally published in Black Mask in the 1930s. I haven’t read many of these, but most of them are collected in volumes like Killer in the Rain and Trouble is My Business if you are interested. Of course, if you get the Library of America volumes, you get the lot.

After reading the novels of writers I admire, I usually want to read a biography or two. There are a couple of worthy volumes: Tom Hiney’s Raymond Chandler is a worthy read, as is Judith Freeman’s The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved. There’s an older biography by Frank McShane that I haven’t read. Finally, if you’re desperate for more Chandler, there are a couple of volumes of his letters. I recently obtained The Raymond Chandler Papers and I’ve just started reading that. Chandler is an entertaining and caustic letter writer, so it’s well worth a look.

And that’s it. Seven novels, thirty or so stories, and book of letters. From a guy who happens, in my opinion, to be one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.

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