milestones in american pulp: william s. burroughs’ naked lunch

A true genius and first mythographer of the mid-twentieth century, William Burroughs is the lineal successor to James Joyce. Naked Lunch is a banquet you will never forget.
— JG Ballard
Prophesied with unerring accuracy the hideous modes that human behaviour would assume in the post-apocalyptic second half of the twentieth century. Naked Lunch is essential reading for anyone who maintains any illusions about anything.
— Will Self

The opening pages of William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch:

Naked Lunch Image

I can feel the heat closing in, feel them out there

making their moves, setting up their devil doll stool
pigeons, crooning over my spoon and dropper   I throw
away at Washington Square Station, vault   a turnstile
and two flights down the iron stairs, catch an uptown
A train… Young, good looking, crew cut, Ivy League,
advertising exec type fruit holds the door back for me.
I am evidently his idea of a character. You know the
type comes on with bartenders and cab drivers, talking
about right hooks and the Dodgers, call the counterman
in Nedick’s by his first name. A real asshole. And right
on time this narcotics dick in a white trench coat (imagine
tailing somebody in a white trench coat—trying
to pass as a fag I guess) hit the platform. I can hear the
way he would say it holding my outfit in his left hand,
right hand on his piece: "I think you dropped some-
thing, fella"
 But the subway is moving.
  "So long flatfoot!" I yell, giving the fruit his B production.
I look into the fruit’s eyes, take in the white teeth,
the Florida tan, the two hundred dollar sharkskin suit,
the button-down Brooks Brothers shirt and carrying
The News as a prop. "Only thing I read is Little Abner."
 A square wants to come on hip…. Talks about "pod,"
and smoke it now and then, and keeps some around to
offer the fast Hollywood types.
 "Thanks, kid," I say, "I can see you’re one of our own."
His face lights up like a pinball machine, with stupid,
pink effect.
 "Grassed on me he did," I said morosely. (Note:
Grass is English thief slang for inform.) I drew closer
and laid my dirty junky fingers on his sharkskin sleeve.
"And us blood brothers in the same dirty needle, I can
tell you in confidence he is due for a hot shot." (Note:
This is a cap of poison junk sold to addict for liquidation 
purposes. Often given to informers. Usually the hot
shot is strychnine since it tastes and looks like junk.)
 "Ever see a hot shot hit, kid? I saw the Gimp catch
one in Philly. We rigged his room with a one-way
whorehouse mirror and charged a sawski to watch it.
He never got the needle out of his arm. They don’t if
the shot is right. That’s the way they find them, dropper
full of clotted blood hanging out of a blue arm. The
look in his eyes when it hitKid, it was tasty….
 "Recollect when I am traveling with the Vigilante,
best Shake Man in the industry. Out in Chi… We is
working the fags in Lincoln Park. So one night the Vigilante turns up for work in cowboy boots and a black
vest with a hunka tin on it and a lariat slung over his
 "So I says: ‘What’s with you? You wig already?’
 "He just looks at me and says: ‘Fill your hand stranger’
and hauls out an old rusty six shooter and I take off
across Lincoln Park, bullets cutting all around me. And
he hangs three fags before the fuzz nail him. I mean
the Vigilante earned his moniker….
 "Ever notice how many expressions carry over from
queers to con men? Like ‘raise,’ letting someone know
you are in the same line?
 "’Get her!’
 "’Get the Paregoric Kid giving that mark the build
 "’Eager Beaver wooing him much too fast.’
 "The Shoe Store Kid (he got that moniker shaking
down fetishists in shoe stores) say: ‘Give it to a mark
with K.Y. and he will come back moaning for more.’
And when the Kid spots a mark he begin to breathe
heavy. His face swells and his lips turn purple like an
Eskimo in heat. Then slow, slow he comes on the mark,
feeling for him, palpating him with fingers of rotten


"The Rube has a sincere little boy look, burns through
him like blue neon. That one stepped right off a Sator-
day Evening Post cover with a string of bullheads, and
preserved himself in junk. His marks never beef and the
Bunko people are really carrying a needle for the Rube.
One day Little Boy Blue starts to slip, and what crawls
out would make an ambulance attendant puke. The
Rube flips in the end, running through empty automats
and subway stations, screaming: ‘Come back, kid!!
Come back!l’ and follows his boy right into the East
River, down through condoms and orange peels, mosaic
of floating newspapers, down into the silent black ooze
with gangsters in concrete, and pistols pounded Hat to
avoid the probing finger of prurient ballistic experts."
 And the fruit is thinking: "What a character!! Wait
till I tell the boys in Clark’s about this one." He’s a
acter collector, would stand still for Joe Gould’s seagull
act. So I put it on him for a sawski and make a meet to
sell him some "pod" as he calls it, thinking, "I’ll catnip
the jerk." (Note: Catnip smells like marijuana when it
burns.   Frequently   passed on   the incautious   or unin-
 "Well," I said, tapping my arm, "duty calls. As one
judge said to another: ‘Be just and if you can’t be just,
be arbitrary.’"
 I cut into the automat and there is Bill Gains huddled
in someone else’s overcoat looking like a 1910 banker
with paresis, and Old Bart, shabby and inconspicuous,
dunking pound cake with his dirty fingers, shiny over
the dirt.
 I had some uptown customers Bill took care of, and
Bart knew a few old relics from hop smoking times,
spectral janitors, grey as ashes, phantom porters sweeping out dusty halls with a slow old man’s hand,
ing and spitting in the junk-sick dawn, retired
fences in theatrical hotels, Pantopon Rose 
the old
madam from Peoria, stoical Chinese waiters 
never show
sickness. Bart sought them out with his old 
junky walk,
patient and cautious and slow, dropped into 
their blood
less hands a few hours of warmth.
 I made the round with him once for kicks. You know
how old people lose all shame about eating, and it
makes you puke to watch them? Old junkies are the
same about junk. They gibber and squeal at sight of it.
The spit hangs off their chin, and their stomach rumbles
and all their guts grind in peristalsis while they cook
up, dissolving the body’s decent skin, you expect any
moment a great blob of protoplasm will Hop right out
and surround the junk. Really disgust you to see it.
 "Well, my boys will be like that one day," I thought
philosophically. "Isn’t life peculiar?"
 So back downtown by the Sheridan Square Station
in case the dick is lurking in a broom closet.
 Like I say it couldn’t last. I knew they were out there
powowing and making their evil fuzz magic, putting
dolls of me in Leavenworth. "No use sticking needles in
that one, Mike."
 I hear they got Chapin with a doll. This old eunuch
dick just sat in the precinct basement hanging a doll of
him day and night, year in year out. And when Chapin
hanged in Connecticut, they find this old creep with his
neck broken.
 "He fell downstairs," they say. You know the old cop
 Junk is surrounded by magic and taboos, curses and
amulets. I could find my Mexico City connection by
radar. "Not this street, the next, right… now left. Now
right again," and there he is, toothless old woman face
and cancelled eyes.
 I know this one pusher walks around humming a
tune and everybody he passes takes it up. He is so grey
and spectral and anonymous they don’t see him and
think it is their own mind humming the tune. So the
customers come in on Smiles, or I’m in the Mood for
Love, or They Say We’re Too Young to Go Steady, or
whatever the song is for that day. Sometime you can see
maybe fifty ratty-looking junkies squealing sick, running
along behind a boy with a harmonica, and there is The
Man on a cane seat throwing bread to the swans, a fat
queen drag walking his Afghan hound through the East
Fifties, an old wino pissing against an El post, a radical
Jewish student giving out leaflets in Washington Square,
a tree surgeon, an exterminator, an advertising fruit in
Nedick’s where he calls the counterman by his first
name. The world network of junkies, tuned on a cord
of rancid jissom, tying up in furnished rooms, shivering
in the junk-sick morning. (Old Pete men suck the black
smoke in the Chink laundry back room and Melanchol
Baby dies from an overdose of time or cold turkey withdrawal of breath.) In Yemen, Paris, New Orleans,
ico City and Istanbulshivering under the air hammers
and the steam shovels, shrieked junky curses at one
another neither of us heard, and The Man leaned out
of a passing steam roller and I coped in a bucket of tar.
(Note: Istanbul is being torn down and rebuilt, espe-
cially shabby junk quarters. Istanbul has more heroin
junkies than NYC.) The living and the dead, in sickness 
or on the nod, hooked or kicked or hooked again,
come in on the junk beam and the Connection is eating
Chop Suey on Dolores Street, Mexico D.F., dunking
pound cake in the automat, chased up Exchange Place
by a baying pack of People. (Note: People is New
Orleans slang for narcotic fuzz. )
 The old Chinaman dips river water into a rusty tin
can, washes down a yen pox hard and black as a cinder.
(Note: Yen pox is the ash of smoked opium. )
 Well, the fuzz has my spoon and dropper, and I know
they are coming in on my frequency led by this blind
pigeon known as Willy the Disk. Willy has a round,
disk mouth lined with sensitive, erectile black hairs. He
is blind from shooting in the eyeball, his nose and palate
eaten  away sniffing H, his body a mass of scar tissue
hard and dry as wood. He can only eat the shit now
with that mouth, sometimes sways out on a long tube
of ectoplasm, feeling for the silent frequency of junk.
He follows my trail all over the city into rooms I move
out already, and the fuzz   walks in   some newlyweds
from Sioux Falls.
 "All right, Lee! I Come out from behind that strap-on!
We know you" and pull the man’s prick off straightaway.
 Now Willy is getting hot and you can hear him always
out there in darkness (he only functions   at night)
whimpering, and feel the terrible urgency of that blind,
seeking mouth. When they move in for the bust, Willy
goes all out of control, and  his mouth eats a hole right
through the door. If the cops weren’t there to restrain
him with a stock probe, he would suck the juice right
out of every junky he ran down.
 I knew, and everybody else knew they had the Disk
on me. And if my kid customers ever hit the stand: "He
force me to commit all kinda awful sex acts in return for
junk" I could kiss the street good-bye.
 So we stock up on H, buy a second-hand Studebaker,
and start West.

The Vigilante copped out as a schizo possession case:
 "I was standing outside myself trying to stop those
hangings with ghost fingers…. I am a ghost wanting
what every ghost wants—a bodyafter the Long Time
moving through odorless alleys of space where no life
is only the colorless no smell of death…. Nobody can
breathe and smell it through pink convolutions of gristle
laced with crystal snot, time shit and black blood filters
of flesh."
 He stood there in elongated court room shadow,
face torn like a broken film by lusts and hungers
larval organs stirring in the tentative ectoplasmic
of junk kick ( ten days on ice at time of the 
First Hear
ing) flesh that fades at the first silent
touch of junk.
 I saw it happen. Ten pounds lost in ten minutes
ing with the syringe in one hand holding his pants
with the other, his abdicated flesh burning in a cold
yellow halo, there in the New York hotel room…
night table litter of candy boxes, cigarette butts
cading out of three ashtrays, mosaic of sleepless
and sudden food needs of the kicking addict 
nursing his
baby flesh….
 The Vigilante is prosecuted in Federal Court under
a lynch bill and winds up in a Federal Nut House
cially designed for the containment of ghosts:
prosaic impact of objects… washstand… 
toilet… bars… there they are… this is it…
lines cut… nothing beyond… Dead End… And 
Dead End in every face….
 The physical changes were slow at first, then jumped
forward in black chunks, falling through his slack tissue,
washing away the human lines…. In his place of total
darkness mouth and eyes are one organ that leaps forward to snap with transparent teeth… but no organ
is constant as regards either function or position… sex
organs sprout anywhere… rectums open, defecate and
close… the entire organism changes color and con-
sistency in split-second adjustments…..

William Burroughs, Naked Lunch

milestones in American pulp: the cia, secret agents/pulp fiction novelists & jfk’s assassination

For this sentence alone Philip Atlee deserves an enduring spot in the annals of American pulp fiction:

"My rectal sphincter throbbed again, all I needed, and I said ‘nuts to you’ and locked my bowels."
— Philip Atlee, The Fer-De-Lance Contract

James Atlee Phillips (pen name Philip Atlee) whose "Contract" series of books was comprised of 22 novels about counter-intelligence agent Joe Gall. Gall, a so-called "nullifier," is sent by a secretive U.S. government agency to trouble spots around the globe in order to solve—that is, erase—the problem. Somewhat surprisingly, Raymond Chandler wrote of him: "I admire Philip Atlee’s writing enormously, the hard economy of style, the characterisations, and the interesting and varied backgrounds."

But there are reasons outside of his writing that make it worth remembering
Philip Atlee. For starters, there was more than one pulp novelist in the Atlee Philips family. James Atlee Phillips was the brother of well-known CIA officer David Atlee Phillips, long-rumoured to be an organizing force behind the assassination of JFK. 

In 1978, David Atlee Phillips published a novel about political assassins entitled The Carlos Contract: A Novel of International Terrorism. And then things get more interesting… here are a couple of tantalizing quotes from the Web page

First, David Atlee Phillips, who died of canceron July 7, 1988, left behind an unpublished manuscript entitled The AMLASH Legacy, a novel about a CIA officer working at the Mexico City station in 1963.  From the novel:

I was one of the two case officers who handled Lee Harvey Oswald. After working to establish his Marxist bona fides, we gave him the mission of killing Fidel Castro in Cuba. I helped him when he came to Mexico City to obtain a visa, and when he returned to Dallas to wait for it I saw him twice there. We rehearsed the plan many times: In Havana Oswald was to assassinate Castro with a sniper’s rifle from the upper floor window of a building on the route where Castro often drove in an open jeep. Whether Oswald was a double-agent or a psycho I’m not sure, and I don’t know why he killed Kennedy. But I do know he used precisely the plan we had devised against Castro. Thus the CIA did not anticipate the President’s assassination but it was responsible for it. I share that guilt.


There’s also a January, 2003 e-mail by James Atlee Phillips’ son (the folk rock singer Shawn Phillips) to JFK assassination researcher Gary Buell:

The "Confession", you refer to was not in so many words as such. I cannot remember the time frames involved, but this was what was told to me by my father, James Atlee Phillips, who is deceased. He said that David had called him with reference to his (Davids), invitation to a dinner, by a man who was purportedly writing a book on the CIA. At this dinner, was also present a man who was identified only as the "Driver". David told Jim that he knew the man was there to identify him as Raul Salcedo, whose name you should be familiar with, if your research is accurate in this matter. David then told Jim that he had written a letter to the various media, as a "Preemptive Strike," against any and all allegations about his involvement in the JFK assassination. Jim knew that David was the head of the "Retired Intelligence Officers of the CIA", or some such organization, and that he was extremely critical of JFK, and his policies. Jim knew at that point, that David was in some way, seriously involved in this matter and he and David argued rather vehemently, resulting in a silent hiatus between them that lasted almost six years according to Jim. Finally, as David was dying of irreversible lung cancer, he called Jim and there was apparently no reconciliation between them, as Jim asked David pointedly, "Were you in Dallas on that day"? David said, "Yes", and Jim hung the phone up.

The final word on pulp fiction, the CIA and JFK’s murder must make mention of E. Howard Hunt, CIA operative and Watergate “plumber,” who was undoubtedly the greatest writer of pulps (47 novels under his own name and a number of pen names) of any government agency, ever. In January 2007, while on his deathbed, Hunt allegedly confessed to having extensive foreknowledge of the JFK assassination, implicating Lyndon Johnson and the CIA.

Here’s an excerpt from William F. Buckley’s obituary of Hunt:
I remember with sad amusement an earlier experience of Hunt’s with the law, this time involving his novels. Allen Dulles, then head of CIA, called him in one day and said, Howard, I know the rules are that this office has to clear all manuscripts by our agents. But you write so many, you’re wearing us out. So go ahead and publish your books without our clearance, but use a pseudonym.
Hunt handed me his latest book, "Catch Me in Zanzibar," by Gordon Davis. I leafed through it and found printed on the last page, "You have just finished another novel by Howard Hunt." I thought this hilarious. So did Howard. The reaction of Allen Dulles is not recorded.
In a 2004 audio recording Hunt named fellow pulp novelist David Phillips as a participant in the JFK assassination:
I heard from Frank [Sturgis] that LBJ had designated Cord Meyer, Jr. to undertake a larger organization while keeping it totally secret. Cord Meyer himself was a rather favored member of the Eastern aristocracy. He was a graduate of Yale University and had joined the Marine Corps during the war and lost an eye in the Pacific fighting.
I think that LBJ settled on Meyer as an opportunist like himself and a man who had very little left to him in life ever since JFK had taken Cord’s wife as one of his mistresses. I would suggest that Cord Meyer welcomed the approach from LBJ, who was after all only the Vice President at that time and of course could not number Cord Meyer among JFK’s admirers—quite the contrary.
As for Dave Phillips, I knew him pretty well at one time. He worked for me during the Guatemala project. He had made himself useful to the agency in Santiago, Chile where he was an American businessman. In any case, his actions, whatever they were, came to the attention of the Santiago station chief and when his resume became known to people in the Western hemisphere division he was brought in to work on Guatemalan operations.
Sturgis and Morales and people of that ilk stayed in apartment houses during preparations for the big event. Their addresses were very subject to change, so that where a fellow like Morales had been one day, you’d not necessarily associated [sic] with that address the following day. In short, it was a very mobile experience.
Let me point out at this point, that if I had wanted to fictionalize what went on in Miami and elsewhere during the run up for the big event, I would have done so. But I don’t want any unreality to tinge this particular story, or the information, I should say. I was a benchwarmer on it and I had a reputation for honesty.
I think it’s essential to refocus on what this information that I’ve been providing you — and you alone, by the way — consists of. What is important in the story is that we’ve backtracked the chain of command up through Cord Meyer and laying [sic] the doings at the doorstep of LBJ. He, in my opinion, had an almost maniacal urge to become President. He regarded JFK, as he was in fact, an obstacle to achieving that. He could have waited for JFK to finish out his term and then undoubtedly a second term. So that would have put LBJ at the head of a long list of people who were waiting for some change in the executive branch.

One can’t help wondering if these dead pulp novelists would have proven to be less dangerous if they had had less of the pulp novelistic imagination in them: history could have been significant;y different but for these CIA officers and operatives adhering to a "boy’s own adventures" credo of live by the pulps, die by the pulps. It seems fitting that Hunt may one day be best remembered through the portrayal of him by one of JFK’s greatest admirers, Norman Mailer, in his 1991 novel Harlot’s Ghost.

Some of E. Howard Hunt’s book covers:

the violent ones by macavityabc.

i came to kill by macavityabc.

one of our agents is missing by macavityabc.

the towers of silence by macavityabc.

HOUSE DICK by levar.

bimini run by macavityabc.

end of a stripper by macavityabc.

calypso caper by macavityabc. 

milestone in american pulps: no orchids for miss blandish, by englishman james hadley chase

A close friend of Graham Greene, an author of over 80 books, James Hadley Chase (real name René Brabazon Raymond) was perhaps the first non-American to really capitalize on the lucrative pulp potential of the American criminal mythos.
Chase’s first novel, No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1939) was written by the former door-to-door encyclopedia salesman in a scant six weekends, with the help of a dictionary of American slang, reference books on the American underworld, and the wholesale lifting of the plot of William Faulkner’s Sanctuary.

Chase was motivated by money, hoping to cash in on the popularity American hard-boiled crime fiction in the U.K. The book became a bestseller and while Raymond Chandlerderided No Orchids for Miss Blandish as "
half-cent pulp writing at its worst," George Orwell observed "it is not, as one might expect, the product of an illiterate hack, but a brilliant piece of writing, with hardly a wasted word or a jarring note anywhere." But Orwell’s acute political antennae left him with the impression that the novel was "a day dream appropriate to a totalitarian age."  

The improbable plot of the novel provided in part the inspiration for Raymond Queneau’s 1947 novel, On est toujours trop bon avec les femmes (We Always Treat Women Too Well). Indeed, at a critical part in the story, the father of the kidnapped girl—the eponymous Miss Blandish—refuses to take her back from her captors with the judgment "Better dead than deflowered." No wonder Orwell famously began his review of Chase’s book with the warning "Now for a header into the cesspool."
Here’s opening section of the first chapter:



IT BEGAN on a summer afternoon in July, a month of intense heat, rainless skies and scorching, dust-laden winds.

At the junction of the Fort Scott and Nevada roads that cuts Highway 54, the trunk road from Pittsburgh to Kansas City, there stands a gas station and lunchroom bar: a shabby wooden structure with one gas pump, run by an elderly widower and his fat blonde daughter.
A dusty Lincoln pulled up by the lunchroom a few minutes after one o’clock. There were two men in the car: one of them was asleep.
The driver, Bailey, a short thickset man with a fleshy, brutal face, restless, uneasy black eyes and a thin white scar along the side of his jaw, got out of the car. His dusty, shabby suit was threadbare. His dirty shirt was frayed at the cuffs. He felt bad. He had been drinking heavily the previous night and the heat bothered him.
He paused to look at his sleeping companion, Old Sam, then shrugging, he went into the lunchroom, leaving Old Sam to snore in the car.
The blonde leaning over the counter smiled at him. She had big white teeth that reminded Bailey of piano keys. She was too fat to interest him. He didn’t return her smile.
“Hello, mister,” she said brightly. “Phew! Isn’t it hot? I didn’t sleep a wink last night.”
“Scotch,” Bailey said curtly. He pushed his hat to the back of his head and mopped his face with a filthy handkerchief.
She put a bottle of whiskey and a glass on the counter.
“You should have beer,” she said, shaking her blonde curls at him. “Whiskey’s no good to anyone in this heat.”
“Give your mouth a rest,” Bailey said.
He carried the bottle and the glass to a table in a corner and sat down.
The blonde grimaced, then she picked up a paperback and with an indifferent shrug, she began to read.
Bailey gave himself a long drink, then he leaned back in his chair. He was worried about money. If Riley couldn’t dream up something fast, he thought, we’ll have to bust a bank. He scowled uneasily. He didn’t want to do that. There were too many Feds around for safety. He looked through the window at Old Sam, sleeping in the car. Bailey sneered at the sleeping man. Apart from being able to drive a car, he was useless, Bailey thought. He’s too old for this racket. All he thinks about is where his next meal is coming from and sleeping. It’s up to Riley or me to scratch up some money somehow—but how?
The whiskey made him hungry.
“Ham and eggs and hurry it up,” he called to the blonde.
“Doesn’t he want any?” the blonde asked, pointing through the window at Old Sam.
“Does he look like it?” Bailey said. “Hurry it up! I’m hungry.”
He saw through the window a dusty Ford pull up and a fat, elderly man get out.
Heinie! Bailey said to himself. What’s he doing here?
The fat man waddled into the lunchroom and waved to Bailey.
“Hi, pal,” he said. “Long time no see. How are you?”
“Lousy,” Bailey grunted. “This heat’s killing me.”
Heinie came over. He pulled out a chair and sat down. He was a leg man for a society rag that ran blackmail on the side. He was always picking up scraps of information, and often, for a consideration, he passed on any useful tips that might lead to a robbery to the small gangs operating around Kansas City.
“You can say that again,” Heinie said, sniffing at the ham cooking. “I was out at Joplin last night covering a lousy wedding. I was nearly fried. Imagine having a wedding night in heat like this!” Seeing Bailey wasn’t listening, he asked, “How’s tricks? You look kinda low.”
“I haven’t had a break in weeks,” Bailey said, dropping his cigarette butt on the floor. “Even the goddamn horses are running against me.”
“You want a hot tip?” Heinie asked. He leaned forward, lowering his voice. “Pontiac is a cinch.”
Bailey sneered.
“Pontiac? That nag’s a fugitive from a merry-go-round.”
“You’re wrong,” Heinie said. “They spent ten thousand bucks on that horse and it looks good.”
“I’d look good if anyone spent all that dough on me,” Bailey snarled.
The blonde came over with his plate of ham and eggs. Heinie sniffed at it as she put the plate on the table.
“Same for me, beautiful,” he said, “and a beer.”
She slapped away his exploring hand, smiled at him and went back to the counter.
“That’s the kind of woman I like—value for money,” Heinie said, looking after her. “Two rolled into one.”
“I’ve got to get some dough, Heinie,” Bailey said, his mouth full of food. “Any ideas?”
“Not a thing. If I do hear I’ll let you know, but right now there’s nothing your weight. I’ve got a big job tonight. I’m covering the Blandish shindig. It’s only for twenty bucks, but the drinks will be free.”
“Blandish? Who’s he?”
“Where have you been living?” Heinie asked in disgust. “Blandish is one of the richest guys in the state. They say he’s worth a hundred million.”
Bailey speared the yolk of his egg with his fork.
“And I’m worth five bucks!” he said savagely. “That’s life! What’s he in the news for?”
“Not him: his daughter. Have you ever seen her? What a dish? I’d give ten years of my life for a roll in the hay with her.”
Bailey wasn’t interested.
“I know these rich girls. They don’t know what they’re here for.”
“I bet she does,” Heinie said and sighed. “Her old man’s throwing a party for her: it’s her twenty-fourth birthday—just the right age. He’s giving her the family diamonds.” He rolled his eyes. “What a necklace! They say it’s worth fifty grand.”
The blonde came over with his meal. She was careful to keep out of his reach. When she had gone, Heinie pulled up his chair and started to eat noisily. Bailey had finished. He sat back and began to pick his teeth with a match. He was thinking: fifty grand! I wonder if there’s a chance of grabbing that necklace? I wonder if Riley would have the nerve to make a try for it?
“Where’s the party—at her house?”
“That’s right,” Heinie said, shoveling food into his mouth. “Then she and her boy friend, Jerry MacGowan, are going on to the Golden Slipper.”
“With the necklace?” Bailey asked casually.
“I bet once she puts it on, she’ll never take it off.”
“But you’re not sure?”
“She’ll be wearing it all right. The press will be there.”
“What time will she be at the roadhouse?”
“Around midnight.” Heinie paused, his fork near his mouth. “What’s on your mind?”
“Nothing.” Bailey looked at him, his fleshy face expressionless. “She and this guy, MacGowan? No one else?”
“No.” Heinie suddenly laid down his fork. His fat face was worried. “Now look, don’t go getting any ideas about the necklace. You’d start something you couldn’t finish. I’m telling you. Riley and you aren’t big enough to handle a job like that. You be patient. I’ll find something you can handle, but not the Blandish necklace.”
Bailey grinned at him. Heinie thought he looked like a wolf.
“Don’t get excited,” he said, “I know what I can and can’t handle.” He stood up. “I guess I’ll be moving. Don’t forget: if anything comes up, let me know. So long, pal.”
“You’re in a hurry all of a sudden, aren’t you?” Heinie said, frowning up at Bailey.
“I want to get off before Old Sam wakes up. I’m not buying him another meal as long as I live. So long.”
He went over to the blonde and paid his check, then he walked over to the Lincoln. The heat hit him like a clenched fist. After the whiskey it made him feel a little dizzy. He got in the car and paused to light a cigarette, his mind busy.
Once the word got around about the necklace, he was thinking, every little gangster in the district would sit up and wonder. Would Riley have the nerve to grab it?
He nudged Old Sam awake.
“Come on!” he said roughly. “What the hell’s the matter with you? Don’t you do anything but sleep these days?”
Old Sam, tall, wiry and pushing sixty, blinked as he slowly straightened up.
“Are we going to eat?” he asked hopefully.
“I’ve eaten,” Bailey said and set the car moving.
“How about me?”
“Go ahead if you’ve got any dough. I’m not paying,” Bailey snarled.
Old Sam sighed. He tightened his belt and pushed his greasy, battered hat over his long, red nose.
“What’s gone wrong with this outfit, Bailey?” he asked mournfully. “We never have any money now. One time we were doing all right; now nothing. Know what I think? I think Riley spends too much time in the sack with that broad of his. He isn’t concentrating on business.”
Bailey slowed the car and pulled up outside a drugstore.
“Give your mouth a rest,” he said and getting out of the car, he walked into the drugstore. He shut himself in a telephone booth. He dialed, and after a long wait, Riley came on the line.
Bailey could hear the radio blaring and Anna singing at the top of her voice. He started to tell Riley what he had learned from Heinie, but gave up.
“You can’t hear what I’m saying, can you?” he bawled. “Can’t you stop that goddamn noise?”
Riley seemed half dead. Bailey had left him in bed with Anna. He was surprised he even bothered to answer the telephone.
“Hang on,” Riley said.
The music stopped, then Anna began to shout angrily. Bailey heard Riley bellow something and then the sound of a loud smack, Bailey shook his head, breathing hard down his nose. Riley and Anna fought all day. They drove him nuts when he was with them.
Riley came back to the telephone.
“Listen, Frankie,” Bailey pleaded. “I’m roasting alive in this goddamn booth. Will you listen? This is important”
Riley began to beef about the heat at his end.
“I know: I know.” Bailey snarled. “Will you listen? We’ve got the chance of grabbing a necklace worth fifty grand. The Blandish girl will be wearing the necklace tonight. She’s going to the Golden Slipper with her boy friend— just the two of them. I got the word from Heinie. It’s the McCoy. What do you say?”
“How much?”
“Fifty grand. Blandish—the millionaire. How about it?”
Riley seemed to come alive all of a sudden.
“What are you waiting there for? Come on back!” he said excitedly. “This is something we got to talk about. Come on back!”
“I’m on my way,” Bailey said and hung up. He paused to light a cigarette. His hands were shaking with excitement Riley wasn’t as yellow as he thought, he said to himself. If we handle this right, we’re in the money!
He walked with quick strides back to the Lincoln.
Old Sam looked at him sleepily.
“Wake up, stupid,” Bailey said. “Things are cooking.”

milestones in american pulp: raymond chandler, master of the american demotic

The ending of Chandle’s The Big Sleep:

I went quickly away from her down the room and out and down the tiled staircase to the front hall. I didn’t see anybody when I left. I found my hat alone this time. Outside, the bright gardens had a haunted look, as though small wild eyes were watching me from behind the bushes, as though the sunshine itself had a mysterious something in its light. I got into my car and drove off down the hill.


What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or in a marble tower on top of a high hill? You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that. Oil and water were the same as wind and air to you. You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell. Me, I was part of the nastiness now. Far more a part of it than Rusty Regan was. But the old man didn’t have to be. He could lie quiet in his canopied bed, with his bloodless hands folded on the sheet, waiting. His heart was a brief, uncertain murmur. His thoughts were as gray as ashes. And in a little while he too, like Rusty Regan, would be sleeping the big sleep.


On the way downtown I stopped at a bar and had a couple of double Scotches. They didn’t do me any good. All they did was make me think of Silver Wig, and I never saw her again.


— from Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep (1939)