RARA-AVIS: Re: Hard-boiled Stand-up Guys: Ray and Woody

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 05 Mar 2008

Patrick wrote:

> The thing about Chandler that makes him unusual as a
> thriller writer is that Phillip Marlow (sic), his idealized
> self, was so detached from his real self.

I'm not so sure about that. Chandler was supposedly witty, cranky, athletic (tennis, anyone?) and a decorated war hero (which he earned in combat, which presumably means he wasn't quite the cream puff some of his later author photos might suggest). Witty, cranky, tough and brave -- sounds like Marlowe to me.

And is that really any more "detached" than Hammett portraying himself as a quick-witted man of action and a bon vivant, instead of a sickly drunk who was in and out of the hospital and reputedly couldn't keep it zipped? And Fleming's Bond far-fetched adventures were a far cry from his own experiences as an intelligence officer. Why, I bet he never found a naked girl painted gold in his hotel room hardly ever...

Or are you simply talking about physical characteristics? In which case, who really cares?

Lots of (most?) authors create characters who are idealized versions of themselves. It's called writing.

And most of us wish we were smarter, braver, better looking, etc. It's called being human.

Nope, what made Chandler so "unusual" a writer was how good he was, and in the end it's what's on the page -- not in the author bio -- that counts.

Everything else is just People Magazine stuff...

> Chandler was a smart
> enough businessman to see what the public would
> respond to, and a good enough author to pull it off.

Is the public really that shallow? Oh, wait... they think Hemingway, Spillane and John Wayne were actually tough guys. Or that it mattered if they really were.

Kevin Burton Smith www.thrillingdetective.com

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