RARA-AVIS: RE: Review of Chandler Papers

From: Dick Lochte ( dlock@ix.netcom.com)
Date: 27 Feb 2001

I find it odd that readers (on this list especially) get bent out of shape by Peter Temple's comment about Gardner and Cain being forgotten but have not taken issue with his statement that "Hammett's equipment was second-rate. His prose was only slightly less wooden than that of most pulp-magazine writers, and there is something naive about his world view." Holy Moley! If Hammett was second-rate, where does that leave every other crime novelist except Chandler? Makes one wonder about Temple's opinion of his own novels, but not for very long.

On the other subject, even if you don't much care for the books of Gardner and Cain, to say that they have been forgotten is an indefensible claim. Temple might have used Ellery Queen or Rex Stout or Cornell Woolrich and given himself some leeway, though I imagine they, too, are remembered by many. But Gardner, like Spillane and Fleming and Christie, has sold so many books for so long a time that his name will probably be ringing bells into the next millennium. And Cain, though currently out of vogue, made a large enough contribution to the genre (paving the way for Thompson, Goodis, Willeford, Woodrell, etc.) for him to be remembered by most mystery readers and, one hopes, every mystery writer.

On Chandler's influence: forgive me for mentioning last night's television biography of Judy Garland, but the script writer borrowed one of Chandler's best punch lines. On the night of the Academy Awards, Garland is in a hospital about to give birth. She and friends and family are watching the show. She's the odds on favorite to get the Oscar. A camera crew is there to film her acceptance. But it goes to Grace Kelly. In their disappointment, Garland's pals begin to rag on Kelly. She can't act. Who'd she have to sleep with to get the award? Someone says, "I hear she's a nymphomaniac." And Garland uses the Chandler line (unattributed, of course): "She would be if they could calm her down a little."

Dick Lochte

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