Date: 27 Nov 2004

Jim W,

Re your comments below:

> The story is serviceable enough. Marlowe's hired to
> discreetly recover the Brasher Doubloon (where the
> movie based on this book got its name. I like that
> title better.) and bodies start to pile up. Don't
> get me wrong. Chandler never threw me out of the
> story at any point, but it just didn't grab me the
> way TBS, FML, or THE LONG GOODBYE did. A
> serviceable enough plot with a decent mystery behind
> it, I did catch myself yawning a few times.

I found the plot substandard for Chandler too. Perhaps it's because this is the first novel plotted from scratch rather than plotted by expanding previously published short stories. While one can kvetch that the plots of TBS or FML are hard to follow, they certainly pack a lot of incident into the pages. By cotrast, THW seems somewhat simplistic.

Chandler would go back to expanding his old short stories for his next book, 1943's THE LADY IN THE LAKE. He wouldn't attempt to plot out a novel from scratch again until THE LITTLE SISTER in 1949.

Just as an aside, THE BRASHER DOUBLOON was Chandler's original title. His publisher persuaded him to change it to keep readers from thinking the novel was a novel of swashbuckling adventure rather than a contemporary PI novel. When the movie used his original title, Chandler felt somewhat vindicated.
> Even Chandler's trademark styling seems a little
> flatter in this one, like the man's gotten bored
> with Marlowe.

Some of Chandler's best writing is found in FARWELL, MY LOVELY, which immediately precedes THW. FML is also the book most marked by the use of simile and metaphor, which very quickly became a cliche in hard-boiled PI fiction (see, or more correctly, hear the OTR show PAT NOVAK FOR HIRE, for an example of just how over the top the unrestrained use of simile and metaphor can go).

Chandler, noting that other writers were self-consciously aping his style, tended, in post-FML books, to cut back on the use of these stylistic devices. That may be why THW seems comparatively flat, style-wise.

> I think it's Chandler's
> characterizations. Style and plotting were always
> his strong points, making otherwise bland characters
> come alive. In THW, where everything is... OK...
> there's not enough of either to let the characters,
> other than Marlowe and maybe Lt. Breeze, be anything
> more than cardboard cutouts. I especially hated
> Mrs. Murdock. I know I'm supposed to hate her, but
> she's like a bad hair metal band - three chords and
> the same damn lyrics over and over again. She sits
> around and drinks port and verbally abuses anyone
> within reach.

Merle is even more disappointing. Loren Estleman once said that Marlowe spent his whole life looking for a damsel in distress to rescue. In THW, he actually gets one, and she turns out to be one of Chandler's most pallid creations.

Given your earlier post about THE MALTESE FALCON, I'm surprised you haven't mentioned two devices Chandler lifts from that novel and uses in THW.

First, of course, is the "Macguffin/quest object," a fabled article with both historical and monetary value that turns out to be phony in the end.

Second is the parable, a story that the detective tells to another character that has nothing to do with the rest of the plot but which does provide some insight into the detective's personality.

In FALCON, of course, the parable was the Flitcraft story. In THW, it's the "Cassidy case." Interestingly, the Cassidy case that Marlowe talks about to the two cops actually happened. In real life, it was the Doheny case. You can read about it here:



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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 27 Nov 2004 EST