RARA-AVIS: Re: Another Chandler Question

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 27 Jul 2006


Re your questin below:

"In some of the recent hardboiled commentary I've been reading I've encountered Chandler's comment about the streets being 'dark with something other than night.

"Could somebody tell me where this is from, and perhaps expand a little on it. The most recent interpretation I've read suggests that it's racist. I'll be embarrassed if it's in The Simple Art of Murder. I just reread that and didn't catch it."

It WAS in THE SIMPLE ART OF MURDER, but not in the essay "The Simple Art of Murder." Another article about early pulp fiction, originally published, IIRC, in ATLANTIC MONTHLY in 1950 or thereabouts, which was subsequently used by Chandler as the intro to his short story collection is the source. He used the longer essay, which gave the collection its title, as the anchor piece.

I believe the actual quote is, "The streets were dark with a darkness MORE than night." (italics mine)

The phrase wasn't meant to be racist (although this is not to say that Chandler didn't have his racist tendencies), but to be a comment on the dark, sinister atmosphere that the early pulp stories evoked, what Chandler called "the smell of fear," that drew him to the form.

Michael Connelly used the phrase as the title for one of his two "Harry Bosch, Private Eye" novels.


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