Following the Master

If you’re too young to know who Raymond Chandler or  Philip Marlowe are, be thankful you’re old enough to read.

“Raymond Chandler is a master.” —The New York Times

“[Chandler] wrote as if pain hurt and life mattered.” —The New Yorker

“Chandler seems to have created the culminating American hero: wised up, hopeful, thoughtful, adventurous, sentimental, cynical and rebellious.” –Robert B. Parker, The New York Times Book Review

“Philip Marlowe remains the quintessential urban private eye.” —Los Angeles Times

“Chandler wrote like a slumming angel and invested the sun-blinded streets of Los Angeles with a romantic presence.” —Ross Macdonald

One of the things I’ve used as a writing guide is a list of Chandler’s Ten Commandments for writing a murder mystery:

1) It must be credibly motivated, both as to the original situation and the dénouement.
2) It must be technically sound as to the methods of murder and detection.
3) It must be realistic in character, setting and atmosphere. It must be about real people in a real world.
4) It must have a sound story value apart from the mystery element: i.e., the investigation itself must be an adventure worth reading.
5) It must have enough essential simplicity to be explained easily when the time comes.
6) It must baffle a reasonably intelligent reader.
7) The solution must seem inevitable once revealed.
8) It must not try to do everything at once. If it is a puzzle story operating in a rather cool, reasonable atmosphere, it cannot also be a violent adventure or a passionate romance.
9) It must punish the criminal in one way or another, not necessarily by operation of the law…. If the detective fails to resolve the consequences of the crime, the story is an unresolved chord and leaves irritation behind it.
10) It must be honest with the reader.


You see the blue one, of course. Sometimes I do a few things like Chandler did. Like write a 44 word sentence with a single comma. But I think he wouldn’t approve of Hunt&Cam. Their relationship is mercurial, passionate, sometimes fraught. Sometimes I think I should have left Hunter as I originally conceived him: a man alone and okay with that.

The “cool, reasonable atmosphere” exists only in Hunter’s mind. They are books that try to do everything at once. And I don’t seem to know any other way to do it. But I can, at least, introduce you to Raymond Chandler, whom you should 1-click asap. I have this excerpt from The Long Goodbye – tell me you don’t want to turn the page …

chandler text

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