chandler’s law—the world is a jungle; it is cynically given a veneer of order by the corrupt police

Anthony Burgess sums up Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye: “If this is not literature, what is?”

The Long Goodbye
Raymond Chandler (1953)

Cover of the first English editon

Chandler was once considered an admirable writer of low-class fiction, the story of crime and detection (despite the example of Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone) being regarded as ineligible for inclusion in the ranks of the serious novel. But Chandler is a serious writer, an original stylist, creator of a character, Philip Marlowe, as immortal as Sherlock Holmes, and of an ambience—Southern California—which colours one’s attitude to the real location. This is perhaps the best of the Philip Marlowe series. Here Marlowe, the stoical and rather quixotic private eye, attempts to lose his old detachment from people and make friends with Terry Lennox, a weak but amiable man who is married to the daughter of a multimillionaire. The marriage is unsatisfactory; Lennox calls his wife, Sylvia, a tramp. The story becomes complicated when Sylvia is found bloodily murdered. Bribed heavily by his father-in-law, Lennox agrees to take the blame for the murder: he disappears into Mexico and is later reported dead. The case is officially closed and the great family name of Potter (that of the tycoon) cleared.

Marlowe now meets a popular novelist, Roger Wade, sick of his meretricious craft, a drunkard and former friend of Sylvia. Marlowe considers the possibility that Wade may have killed Sylvia when drunk and then blacked out the incident. Then Wade is found dead. Marlowe learns that his wife, Eileen, was once married to Lennox. She killed Sylvia out of jealousy and then killed Wade because of his unreliability: "He talked too much." At the end of the book Lennox reappears. Marlowe is disillusioned with him: his weakness of character has produced an unnecessary murder. Marlowe is hurt, but he soon reverts to his old cynicism. He needed friendship, but he is not going to get it. The world is a jungle; it is cynically given a veneer of order by the corrupt police. You can say goodbye to everybody, but never to them.

Romantic, tending towards a sentimentality it never quite reaches, The Long Goodbye is beautifully composed, with a taut economical style exactly suited to the narrator Marlowe. If this is not literature, what is?

from Anthony Burgess, 99 Novels: The Best in English Since 1939. Allison & Busby, 1984.



el hombre invisible: hard, derisive, inventive, free, funny, serious, poetic, indelibly American

Joan Didion reads The Soft Machine


There sometimes seems a peculiar irrelevance about what is claimed for William S. Burroughs, both by those who admire him and those who do not; the insistent amorphousness of his books encourages the reader to take from them pretty much exactly what he brought to them. Burroughs has been read as a pamphleteer for narcotics reform. He has been read as a parabolist of the highest order. He has been read as a pornographer and he has been read as a prophet of the apocalypse. The Naked Lunch I read first on a beach in the Caribbean and the Naked Lunch I reread a few weeks ago in a hospital in Santa Monica, the book I read once when I was unhappy and again when I was not, did not seem in any sense the same book; to anyone who finds Burroughs readable at all, he is remarkably rereadable, if only because he is remarkably unmemorable. There are no “stories” to wear thin, no “characters” of whom one might tire. We are presented only with the fragmented record of certain fantasies, and our response to that record depends a good deal upon our own fantasies at the moment; in itself, a book by William Burroughs has about as much intrinsic “meaning” as the actual inkblot in a Rorschach test.


Nonetheless Burroughs is read for “meaning,” for we tend to be uneasy in this country until we can draw from an imaginative work some immediate social application. À la Recherche du temps perdu as precursor to the Wolfenden Report, Emma Bovary as victim of the Feminine Mystique. And, on another level, William Burroughs as “satirist,” that slipshod catch-all category for anyone who seems unconventional and modish. Burroughs is by no means successful as a “satirist” or as an “allegorist”; both satire and allegory depend upon strict control of the material, and to talk about Burroughs in that vein leads only into cul-de-sacs where Donald Malcolm can complain querulously that if Mr. Burroughs is satirizing capital punishment then Mr. Burroughs must be unaware that the trend on this issue is toward liberalization.


So it goes. First the insistence upon some fairly conventional “meaning,” then the rush to the barricades. Either Burroughs is a prophet or Burroughs is a fraud. Either he must be the “greatest satirical writer since Jonathan Swift” (Jack Kerouac) or he must be a fabricator of “merest trash” (John Wain). In this stampede to first discern the “message” and then take a stand on it, Burroughs’ limited but very real virtues tend to be overlooked. In a quite literal sense with Burroughs, the medium is the message: the point is not what the voice says but the voice itself, a voice so direct and original and versatile as to disarm close scrutiny of what it is saying. Burroughs is less a writer than a “sound,” and to listen to the lyric may be to miss the beat.


Consider The Soft Machine. Burroughs is uninfected by any trace of humanist sentimentality, and his imagery is that of the most corrosive nightmare, obscene, specifically homosexual, casually savage, peopled by androgynous mutations. Flesh is not flesh but “biologic material,” undifferentiated tissue which metamorphoses, dissolves into mucus, sloughs off, passes into other vessels. Hot crabs hatch out of human spines; police files spurt out bone meal. Although it is easy to read The Soft Machine as a parable of technological suicide, a kind of hallucinatory On the Beach, that reading is not going to get us very far, because Burroughs as a dreamer of didactic dreams is not only distinctly hit-and-miss but quite unremarkable, in point of fact Victorian. It has been some years, after all, since we first heard that melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, first stood upon the darkling plain of technology. Read for any such conventional meaning, The Soft Machine has only the dulling effect of a migraine attack, after pain and nausea and unwanted images have battered the nerve synapses until all connections are lost. For the Burroughs repetitiveness blunts response. The particular Burroughs preoccupations atrophy rather than engage the imagination. Ah well, one thinks, eyes glazing, fingers riffling the pages, another orgiastic hanging, all possible switches. It is difficult even to read the book sequentially; to imagine that one will be able to put the book down when the telephone rings and find one’s place a few minutes later is sheer bravura.


In fact the point is not to read the book at all, but somehow to hear the voice in it. The voice in The Soft Machine is talking about time. Some of the book is mock nostalgia, and the title, whatever else it means, seems as well to be a play upon The Time Machine. The voice roves back in time through Mexico, Panama, the Mayan Empire, back through a landscape of pervasive corruption. One city in particular appears and reappears in explicit and extraordinary details: a port city, “stuck in water hyacinths and banana rafts,” a place where jungle has overgrown the parks and diseased armadillos live in the deserted kiosks. Candiru infest the swimming pools; albinos blink in the sun. Although the city is in the here and now, it is terrorized by the Vagrant Ball Players, who seem to have come forward in time from the Mayan period. The Civil Guard tries to placate the Vagrant Ball Players, for they “can sound a Hey Rube Switch brings a million adolescents shattering the customs barriers and frontiers of time, swinging out of the jungle with Tarzan cries, crash landing perilous tin planes and rockets.”


The voice moves not only back but ahead in time, to what seems to be the end of the world. There is an ambiguity here; the last few men left on earth are clearly the survivors of some disaster, but they are also just assuming human shape, just rising from the slime. In short, what the voice in The Soft Machine is doing is giving an hallucinatory reading to Eliot’s Four Quartets: “In my beginning is my end” and “Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future / And time future contained in time past.”


This is by no means unintentional. Eliot’s is one of the rhythms into which the voice in The Soft Machine slips deliberately and frequently, sometimes ironically and sometimes not. Sometimes the voice is not Eliot but Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain: “Meanwhile an angle comes dripping down and forms a stalactite in my brain.” Sometimes it is the voice of the Hearst Task Force: “I have just returned from a thousand year time trip and I am here to tell you what I saw… It is the new frontier and only the adventurous need apply—But it belongs to anyone with the courage and know-how to enter—It belongs to you.” Sometimes the voice slips into the peculiar rhythms of the hustler, sometimes into the ritualized diction of blue movies. The voice rattles off elliptical allusions, throws away joke after outrageous joke, shifts gear in mid-sentence, never falters.


It is precisely this voice—complex, subtle, allusive—that is the fine thing about The Soft Machine and about Burroughs. It is hard, derisive, inventive, free, funny, serious, poetic, indelibly American, a voice in which one hears transistor radios and old movies and all the cliches and all the cons and all the newspapers, all the peculiar optimism, all the failure. Against that voice, those of the younger “satirical” or “black” novelists sound self-conscious and faked; it is the voice of a natural, and what it is saying is in no sense the point.


Joan Didion, "Wired for Shock Treatments," Bookweek, 27 March 1966, p 2-3.

The Soft Machine by bradallen.

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: the style of raymond chandler

Why Raymond Chandler still reads so well, after all these years 

What is it about Raymond Chandler? Writers as disparate as W.H. Auden, Evelyn Waugh, Ian Fleming and Norman Mailer all praised him, and he was much beloved by intellectuals as dauntingly perceptive as Iris Murdoch and John Bayley.

Maybe the real question one should ask is: what is it about Raymond Chandler’s writing that lets it age so well? On balance, I think it must be the clean, crisp freshness of his prose, the startling vividness of his metaphors—Moose Malloy is described as looking as inconspicuous as a tarantula on angel food”—which is also a nice allusion to Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, in which a spider emerges from Miss Havesham’s wedding cake, i.e., the poisonous and the ) and the muted music of his best passages:
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?  
In terms of assonance that passage scans as “w, y, w (“once”), y, w, d, i, d, i, t, t, h, h.”  And you can parse its rhythms just as easily as the iambic pentameters of any Elizabethan writer.
After 70 or so years, Chandler’s descriptive passages, the set pieces he inserted throughout his fiction, and especially his scene-openers still make for gripping, memorable writing. The famous opening of his short story “Red Wind”:
There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer in a cocktail lounge.
Or that elegiac tone that suffuses much of his writing—like the last chapter of Farewell, My Lovely:   

It took over three months to find Velma. They wouldn’t believe Grayle didn’t know where she was and hadn’t helped her get away. So every cop and newshawk in the country looked in all the places where money might be hidng her. And money wasn’t hiding her at all. Although the way she hid was pretty obvious once it was found out.
One night a Baltimore detective with a camera eye as rare as a pink zebra wandered into a night club and listened to the band and looked at a handsome black-haired, black browed torcher who could sing as if she meant it. Something in her face struck a chord and the chord went on vibrating.
He went back to Headquarters and got out the Wanted file and started through the pile of readers. When he came to the one he wanted he looked at it a long time. Then he straightened his straw hat on his head and went back to the night club and got hold of the manager. They went back to the dressing rooms behind the shell and the manager knocked on one of the doors. It wasn’t locked. The dick pushed the manager aside and went in and locked it.
He must have smelled marihuana because she was smoking it, but he didn’t pay any attention then. She was sitting in front of a triple mirror, studying the roots of her hair and eyebrows. They were her own eyebrows. The dick stepped across the room smiling and handed her the reader.
She must have looked at the face on the reader almost as long as the dick had down at Headquarters. There was a lot to think about while she was looking at it. The dick sat down and crossed his legs and lit a cigarette. He had a good eye, but he had over-specialized. He didn’t know enough about women.
Finally she laughed a little and said: “You’re a smart lad, copper. I thought I had a voice that would be remembered. A friend recognized me by it once, just hearing it on the radio. But I’ve been singing with this band for a month—twice a week on a network—and nobody gave it a thought.”
“I never heard the voice,” the dick said and went on smiling.
She said: “I suppose we can’t make a deal on this. You know, there’s a lot in it, if it’s handled right.”
“Not with me,” the dick said. “Sorry.”
“Let’s go then,” she said and stood up and grabbed up her bag and got her coat from a hanger. She went over to him holding the coat out so he could help her into it. He stood up and held it for her like a gentleman.
She turned and slipped a gun out of her bag and shot him three times through the coat he was holding.
She had two bullets left in the gun when they crashed the door. They got halfway across the room before she used them. She used them both, but the second shot must have been pure reflex. They caught her before she hit the floor, but her head was already hanging by a rag.
“The dick lived until the next day,” Randall said, telling me about it. “He talked when he could. That’s how we have the dope. I can’t understand him being so careless, unless he really was thinking of letting her talk him into a deal of some kind. That would clutter up his mind. But I don’t like to think that, of course.”
I said I supposed that was so.   
“Shot herself clean through the heart—twice,” Randall said. “And I’ve heard experts on the stand say that’s impossible, knowing all the time myself that it was. And you know something else?”
“She was stupid to shoot that dick. We’d never have convicted her, not with her looks and money and the persecution story these high-priced guys would build up. Poor little girl from a dive climbs to be wife of rich man and the vultures that used to know her won’t let her alone. That sort of thing. Hell, Rennenkamp would have half a dozen crummy old burlesque dames in court to sob that they’d gone blackmailed her for years, and in a way that you pin anything on them but the jury would go for it. She did a smart thing to run off on her own and leave Grayle out of it, but it would have been smarter to have come home when she was caught.”
“Oh you believe now that she left Grayle out of it,” I said.
He nodded. I said: “Do you think she had any particular reason for that?”
He stared at me. “I’ll go for it, whatever it is.”
“She was a killer,” I said. “But so was Malloy. And he was a long way from being all rat. Maybe that Baltimore dick wasn’t so pure as the record shows. Maybe she saw a chance—not to get away—she was tired of dodging by that time—but to give a break to the only man who had ever really given her one.”
Randall stared at me with his mouth open and his eyes unconvinced.
“Hell, she didn’t have to shoot a cop to do that,” he said.
“I’m not saying she was a saint or even a halfway nice girl. Not ever. She wouldn’t kill herself until she was cornered. But what she did and the way she did it, kept her from coming back here for trial. Think that over. And who would that trial hurt most? Who would be least able to bear it? And win, lose or draw, who would pay the biggest price for the show? An old man who had loved not wisely, but too well.”
Randall said sharply: “That’s just sentimental.”
“Sure. It sounded like that when I said it. Probably all a mistake anyway. So long. Did my pink bug ever get back up here?”
He didn’t know what I was talking about.
I rode down to the street floor and went out on the steps of the City Hall. It was a cool day and very clear. You could see a long way—but not as far as Velma had gone.

Finally, and always, there’s Chandler’s overarching, all-informing literary motiff: Marlowe as the lone, questing knight:

I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun.

Marlowe the knight-errant is the agent and exemplar of a special kind of sentimentality, as necessitatd by Chandler’s casting of Marlowe as a “verray parfit gentil knight”as the latest successor in a character lineage begun by the Gawain poet, taken up by Chaucer and refined by Spenser:
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)


             Adios, Muñeca

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)