RARA-AVIS: Chandler, Hammett and Fleming: Get Real

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 06 Mar 2008

Patrick wrote:

> There are many interviews with Chandler around and he
> didn't talk or act like Marlow.

Interviews? There are several biographies, and his letters, but I haven't seen any interviews anywhere, except that BBC one he did with Ian Fleming. Where are these "many" interviews?

> I suspect the only
> things he and Marlow had obviously in common were a
> passion for chess.

Chandler had a passion for chess? Where'd you hear that? I've READ most of the Chadler bios over the years (including THE LONG EMBRACE which I recently blogged about) and I know he liked cats and collecting glass figurines, but I don't recall anything about any particular passion for chess. And even Marlowe's interest in chess seemed more like a lonely man, killing time, than any great passion. To me, anyway.

> 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?
> Well, that was at the end of his life when his
> lifestyle had caught up with him.

Actually, Hammett was pretty much in and out of hospitals all his life. He was simply a sickly guy most of his life, and his health is why he quit the Pinkertons. And he fooled around with other women than the ones he was living with or married to from almost day one.

> As to "keeping it zipped," I've always believed
> that persons who can restrain their passion are only
> those with passion weak enough to be restrained.

Oh brother. The Paris Hilton definition of maturity. I want it; therefore it's mine.

> But much of what Fleming wrote was idealized from his
> experience.

And how is that different from any other writer? They all take what they've done and seen and felt and learned and imagined, and craft fiction out of it. Sure, former professional experience counts, but it's not the only thing that makes a writer. Though it does look impressive in the author bio or in PEOPLE.

As I've said before, "Write what you know" is a crock. And if all you know is your job, that doesn't necessarily make you a writer.

Only in the most simplistic, open-mouthed way could you imagine that DR. NO or THE DAIN CURSE is any more "real" or less "idealized" than

Certainly, Marlowe seems more credible and complex (and dimensional) to me than Bond or the Op in those books.

> There's a current Fleming bio showing on
> the Biography Channel today, as a matter of fact.

Oh, well, if AE/Biography says something, it must be true. Is that on before or after America's Most Haunted Houses?

The thing is, you're trying to say there's a big discrepancy between Chandler and his fiction, like it's some big deal or a giant surprise to you. But it's neither unusual or rare. All writers pillage their past and try to make something of it. Including your supposedly more
"realistic" Fleming and Hammett. They all idealize and they all use everything they have and everything they can think up to spin their tales. It's why it's called "Fiction."

Kevin Burton Smith www.thrillingdetective.com http://thrillingdetectiveblog.blogspot.com/

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