Posts in Category: Raymond Chandler

A Cup of Joe

Crime fiction and coffee goes hand in hand it would seem; all my favourite fictional detectives love it. I guess this is because it is associated with a certain sharpening of the faculties. Certainly coffee is your ally when hosting a murder-mystery party: I recommend serving it between wine and people being asked to make their accusations, you may even want to administer it again later, as a walking aid to get folk to their taxis.

Anyway, as a coffee dependent myself — I thought about saying ‘fan’ but, now, that wouldn’t be quite true — I’ve been waiting for an excuse to post my favourite coffee-related quotes, but somehow, in the throws of setting up my own murder-mystery game company, I missed the boat on International Coffee Day, and I simply refuse to wait until next September to post them. So here they are, I do hope you enjoy them.

“Police work wouldn’t be possible without coffee,” Wallander said.
“No work would be possible without coffee.”
They pondered the importance of coffee in silence.”
Henning Mankell, One Step Behind 

‘I went out to the kitchen to make coffee. Rich, strong, bitter, boiling hot, ruthless, depraved. The life blood of tired men.’
Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye

‘Well, I too suffer. The cooking of Madame Summerhayes; it is beyond description. Well, it is not cooking at all. The currents of the cold air. The long hairs of the dogs. The chairs. The terrible, terrible beds in which I try to sleep! And the coffee: words cannot describe to you the fluid they serve to you as coffee.’
Agatha Christie, Mrs McGinty’s Dead

The final quote, Hercule Poirot’s lament, I include not for its eloquence but for it’s aptness. I still marvel at the inability of the British to make decent coffee, one shot of expresso plus a gallon of milk and an inch and a half of foam does not a good cappuccino make!

For the Love of Raymond

Raymond Charles Chandler was born on this day in 1888. He wrote Noir crime full of deadly blondes, mean crooks, hot guns and velvet LA nights, and they are Brilliant. If you haven’t read a Raymond Chandler novel before, go out and find one, preferably Farewell my Lovely. No really, I insist, I’ll even lend you mine.

Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite:

‘It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window.’
Farewell my Lovely

‘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.’
 Farewell my Lovely

‘She kind of held the purse so I could see how empty it was. Then she straightened the bills out on the desk and put one on top of the other and pushed them across. Very slowly, very sadly, as if she were drowning a favorite kitten.’
The Little Sister

‘You can have a hangover from things other than alcohol. I had one from women. Women made me sick.’
The Big Sleep

‘The minutes went by on tipetoe, with their fingers to their lips.’
The Lady in the Lake

Ok, just one more:

‘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.’
Trouble is my Business

For more on Raymond Chandler’s detective Philip Marlowe, click here.

Top Five Devastating Fictional Detectives

A well-written detective can have a devastating effect; here are my top five (but I’m prepared to reconsider if you think I’ve missed anyone out):

The Alpha Male

Dwight ‘Bucky’ Bleichert in neo noir classic The Black Dahlia (2006). The film itself is merely OK, with a convoluted, confusing plot, and certainly less fascinating than the real Black Dahlia case from 1924. However, it is stylishly shot and you will almost certainly find yourself exhaling a sigh or two over Bucky, so I say it’s worth watching. Bucky is a typical alpha male, an ex-boxer turned cop, with a weakness for good-looking women and a gaping hole where his cultured side should be: ‘I don’t get modern art’ Bucky says to Madeline, a femme fatale with whom he is entangled, ‘I doubt modern art gets you, either’, she snipes back. An illicit, thoroughly un-pc pleasure, Bucky’s attractiveness is only enhanced by the fact that he is played by Josh Hartnett *swoon*, who I would probably fancy cast as the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

#4 The Sensitive

Alex Mavros from the dark, atmospheric crime-fiction trilogy by Paul Johnston. Described in the beginning of Crying Blue Murder as too handsome for his own good, this soulful, sensitive man is quite irresistible. I first got to know Alex when interning at Mills & Boon three years ago. I was told to read the trilogy and have a go at rewriting the blurbs (it’s a hard life, I know); I fell in love with the half-Scottish, half-Greek private eye, and you probably will too. Alex is handsome but what makes him irresistible is his sensitivity, unusual in crime fiction detectives: ‘Mavros shook his head to dispel the thoughts… but the heart-rending beauty of the scene overwhelmed him.’

#3 The Louche

Charles Paris from the BBC audio book mystery series, adapted from the novels of Simon Brett. Charles Paris, played perfectly by Bill Nighy, is an endearingly dysfunctional jobbing actor, easily tempted by life’s pleasures – mostly scotch and younger women as far as he is concerned – who lodges with his estranged wife Francis, who he is still in love with – oh, and who solves dark thespian crimes. Paris is alarmingly attractive for what is essentially an alcoholic old man (clearly turning 27 has led to my finally succumbing to the appeal of the Silver Fox). I highly recommend not just the sexiness of the character but also the brilliance of the series, which is so very funny and by far my favourite new audio book discovery.

#2 The Loner

Brendon Frye in Brick (2005). Again, I must confess a terrible weakness for Joseph Gordon-Levit, which stems from my teenage years, swooning over him in Third Rock from the Sun, but it’s the character he plays in Brick who really shoots arrows through my heart. The film itself is a genius hybrid of film noir and teen drama, which sounds naff but actually works brilliantly: the intensity of high-school life and teenage emotion enhancing the ‘mean streets’ vibe that film noir brings to the table.

Devastatingly cool and collected, and always ready with clever one liners (intelligence is sexy, I say), Brendon, like most hard boiled detectives, is an outsider, who can’t trust anyone. ‘I can’t trust you….With you behind me I’d have to tie one eye up watching both your hands, and I can’t spare it’ says Brendon, who begins and ends the film alone… I guess that means that he’s still available…

#1 The Hero

Private Eye Philip Marlowe, creation of Raymond Chandler. I’ve yet to meet a woman who hasn’t been left with an intangible dissatisfaction with reality after reading a Marlowe mystery. Marlowe is almost too good to be true. The ultimate hero, a good man in a bad world, Marlowe is not above rescuing damsels in distress, and he’s not in it for the money either. ‘You’re so marvellous,’ says Anne Riordan to Marlowe in Farewell My Lovely, ‘So brave and determined and you work for so little money… What makes you so wonderful?’

And what makes Marlowe doubly attractive is just how unattainable he is: he isn’t real, so obviously we can’t have him, but, significantly, he remains ultimately elusive even to the most attractive female characters in the books: ‘I’d like to be kissed, damn you!’ continues Anne Riordan in Farewell my Lovely. Well, so would we Anne, so would we!

I would love to know who your dream detectives are!