From: Mark Hall ( markhall@gol.com)
Date: 18 Nov 2002

Chandler collection uncovers delights By Douglas Perry Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Raymond Chandler: Collected Stories by Raymond Chandler Fiction Everyman's Library, $27.50

"I like you," says the femme fatale in Raymond Chandler's Mandarin Jade.
"You look like a guy who was almost a heel and then something stopped him
-- just at the last minute."

That description pretty well fits every hero Raymond Chandler ever created
-- the wiseguy who speaks out of the side of his mouth, the cynic who's seen it all but always finds he can't quite shake his principles. It also could be argued that it describes the modern American male, or at least his ideal, shaped and manipulated through years of TV shows, movies and ads that all owe a debt to the creator of Philip Marlowe.

Which is why Chandler's 1,300-page Collected Stories is such a surprise. The man whose novels all but define the detective genre is not what you would expect. At least, not entirely.

The author of The Big Sleep and The Long Goddbye began writing stories for pulp magazines in the 1930s, creating a vision of Los Angeles as a sybarite's snakepit that the city has never been able to shake. Chandler was also one of the first writers to trivialize violence, with hard guys as heroes who shrug their shoulders at being shot at or brutally knocked about. And that's all here in stories like Bay City Blues and Pearls Are a Nuisance, where the basic detective plot works its way to its inevitable conclusion.

Chandler's story sense is rather juvenile -- especially compared with later mystery writers like Jim Thompson and James Ellroy -- but this rarely matters. Chandler's stories are about people and places, and he never needs much space to nail them down. "The lobby was not quite as big as Yankee Stadium," Chandler's shamus narrates in Trouble Is My Business. "It was floored with a pale blue carpet with sponge rubber underneath. It was so soft it made me want to lie down and roll."

The girl of the moment in Mandarin Jade "looked quiet, but not mousy-quiet. She looked smart, but not Hollywood-smart."

Rest at


Mark Hall markhall@gol.com

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