A collection of letters, poetry, and essays by the master of detective fiction.
Chandler had all the traditional shortcomings of a well-bred, alcoholic Englishman, but he was anything but sloppy in the construction of his prose. Hiney (On the Missionary Trail, not reviewed) and MacShane (The Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler, not reviewed), however, violate the very logic and meticulousness that graced Chandler’s novels, with this disastrously amorphous hodgepodge, which seems to resemble a sort of literary equivalent of the parable of the wheat and the tares. For, although the editors had no lack of good material to draw on, they seem to have made a special effort to publish the great man’s dreck. Chandler’s poems and essays are mostly overwritten, puerile efforts that do not seem to shed any light on his genius—in fact, they detract from it. Many of his letters, however, are worthy of note: his wise commentary on the writing process, his stern debunking of fellow mystery writers such as James Cain and Agatha Christie, his decidedly ambivalent feelings of awe and disgust for Hemingway and Hammet, and his constant railing against the whoredom of Hollywood screenwriting. While most of these letters are pure Chandler and thoroughly enjoyable, they are poorly organized and seem to have been edited on the run. Chandler himself, master of form that he was, would surely have sent Marlowe on the case to sort out this jumbled compilation. At the very least, some sort of chronology is needed to put things into perspective.
A literary crime committed against one of the greatest writers of the last century.