You know, I'm almost afraid to read any more about Chandler; not because of what I might learn, but because it would feed my already disproportionate obsession with his writing too much. I've read pretty much everything he's written, including the letters, and the old Frank MacShane biography. Probably I will get around to reading "The Long Embrace" sometime; I can resist anything but temptation, as another smart-alecky and over-rated Dubliner was wont to say.
The letters do reveal Chandler's friendship with his English publisher; (The American equivalent fell out of favour with him slightly when they baulked at bringing a plagiarism case against James Hadley Chase on his behalf. The case was decided in Chandler's favour in the English courts and Hadley Chase's publishers had to issue an apology and retract the book). It was actually his agents he dumped following their unwise comments about "The Long Goodbye".
Somewhat sadly, I thought - he once remarked that some of his best friends he had never met.
There is also a letter among those to Erle Stanley Gardner in which he explains how he had once taught himself to write for the pulps by taking apart the elements of one of Gardner's stories and then trying to rebuild it from scratch to see how the various effects could be achieved.
Gardner actually cut his teeth on all of the pulp genres: sci-fi, westerns, romances etc., and tells a funny story against himself, and against the practice of paying writers by the word. Apparently a fan once wrote to him wondering why his crackshot western heroes always missed the villain in the final shootout at least three times. He explained that, if the fan were being payed based on the word count, he would make his hero miss several times also.
But, since I am not being paid to bore people via word count, I think its time for me to shut up now.
From: jacquesdebierue <email@example.com>
Sent: Mon, 21 June, 2010 15:03:01
Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: The Chandler / Hammett Ellroy-inspired debate
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, Patrick King <abrasax93@...> wrote:
> I take it, Patrick, that you have not yet read Judith Freeman's THE LONG EMBRACE: RAYMOND CHANDLER AND THE WOMEN HE LOVED. It's well researched and a serious eye-opener to how Chandler operated. He was very close friends with his book publishers and if they wanted something from him they could usually cajole him. He was very interested in making money from his novels. He made most of his money writing for movies, however, and with the studios who employed him he was very unreasonable and drunk most of the time. The studio would keep him drunk if he'd just keep writing. His early stories were inspired not so much by Hammett as by Erle Stanley Gardner whom Chandler admitted to out-and-out copying when he was teaching himself to write. Gardner often had Chandler and his wife come stay at his ranch.
I am not surprised. Gardner was hugely successful (also very prolific). But even Chandler's earliest stories have a tightness and a pace that are not typical of Gardner. I love his stories, they are sometimes jewels of camp, but the other day, while reading one of his Ed Jenkins stories, the thought was: boy, was this guy crude! Chandler didn't crank out stories like that. In some of Gardner's stories you can actually see what happened: a third through it, Gardner realizes that the plotline is a dud and then proceeds to have a few coincidences to fix it. Great stuff, if you're in the mood for a good laugh and innocent fun.
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