Re: RARA-AVIS: Chandler course

From: Marc Seals (
Date: 08 Mar 2004

RE: variations between editions of Chandler's short stories--

I tried to post this last Tuesday when it was still being discussed, but it did not seem to go through.... I'll rty again, though six days seems like an eternity on a list like this.

I've been working on tracing the short stories for the last few months. This is one aspect to which I have given a lot of thought.

None of Chandler's stories from the 1930s originally featured Philip Marlowe as a character, but I think that the character in most of these stories is indeed Marlowe in virtually every aspect but name. Several factors outside of the stories themselves indicate that Chandler would concur.

For example, Chandler is well known for his tendency to "cannibalize" his better stories for material in his novels. Fredric Jameson calls this tendency of Chandler's a "deliberate, self-conscious apprenticeship." There are examples of large chunks of text being taken almost verbatim from the short stories and dropped into the novels.

Another compelling bit of evidence is that after Chandler's Marlowe novels gained popularity, Chandler's publisher proposed issuing a collected edition of the short stories, with the name Philip Marlowe substituted for the names of the various protagonists; Chandler went along with this plan, apparently without objection. Chandler's consent suggests that he did indeed consider the short story detectives to be Marlowe under different names (though the motivation could, of course, have been primarily economic).

Finally-and perhaps most important-is a comment that Chandler made in a 1950 letter to New York Herald-Tribune mystery critic James Sandoe. Speaking of the use of Marlowe's name in the republication of the short stories, Chandler observed that Marlowe "certainly had his genesis in two or three of the novelettes." In this letter, Chandler specifically cited the story
"Finger Man," published in 1934, suggesting that his protagonist had not changed much between this story and THE HIGH WINDOW, published in 1942.
"Finger Man," Chandler's third published story, originally featured an unnamed protagonist. This nameless detective was later renamed Marlowe in the 1950 collection of Chandler's pulp fiction THE SIMPLE ART OF MURDER.

Still, I am disappointed that the recently published collection of Chandler's complete short stories uses the "revised" naming. I. too, prefer the original vision. It just seems more pure.


----- Original Message ----- From: "Michael Robison" <>

> Your comment on the variation in the stories is
> enlightening. I didn't know they were different.
> I've got both the Library of America volume and the
> book that contains the Chandler essay and some
> stories. I'll read the Library of America volume
> since it was the designated text for the class, plus
> I'd rather read unrevised versions anyway.

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