Monday, July 23, 2012

Happy birthday, Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler turns 124 years old today, so I thought I'd bring back some old posts about his influence on crime writers beyond his own American (and English) borders.
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Four years ago the Los Angeles Times asked writers what they would give Chandler as a birthday gift, but I'd like to discuss taking rather than giving, namely what other writers have taken from Philip Marlowe's great creator.
Two years ago, in a post called "Chandler in Souh Africa," I noted Roger Smith's graceful extended tribute to Chandler in his novel Mixed Blood.

Last year I discovered Claudio Nizzi, Massimo Bonfatti, and their loving, amused, and amusing tribute to Chandler (and just about every other crime, movie, and pop-culture trend) in their Leo Pulp comics.

Matt Rees, Welsh-born and Jerusalem-based author of mysteries set in the Palestinian territories, told Detectives Beyond Borders that: "My primary interests in specifically detective writers are Chandler and Hammett." Moreover, he said the social chaos of the territories reminded him of the worlds those two authors portrayed so well: "In the lawlessness and the corruption of the police force – which is often involved with the gangs – I see many parallels with the San Francisco and Los Angeles of Hammett and Chandler."

In Ireland, Declan Hughes invoked Chandler in discussing his own country's Celtic Tiger economic explosion and concurrent boom in crime and crime fiction: "The hardboiled novel always depended on boomtowns where money was to be made and corners to be cut: twenties San Francisco for Hammett, forties LA for Chandler.”

Also in Ireland, your humble blogkeeper noted the debt to Chandleresque plotting and wisecracking in Declan Burke's first novel, Eightball Boogie. Colin Watson's delightfully opinionated social history of English crime writing, Snobbery With Violence, cites Chandler, who "never produced a dull line," for his observations about crime writing and English writers.

An afterword to Juan de Recacoechea's Bolivian crime novel American Visa noted the author's references to Chandler, Hammett, Chester Himes, and movies based on their work. I've also detected more than superficial signs of Chandler's influence in novels by Australia's Peter Corris and noted the traces of Chandler some have found in the work of Algeria's Yasmina Khadra. Finally, Chandler is one of many crime writers upon whom Australia's Garry Disher muses in his wildly self-referential and wildly funny story "My Brother Jack."
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And now it's your turn. What other crime writers from outside the United States have felt Chandler's influence? How has the influence shown itself?
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Late-breaking Chandler tribute: I've just read the following in William Campbell Gault's Murder in the Raw (also published as Ring Around Rosa):
"Well, what had I brought to this trade? Three years in the O.S.S. and my memories of a cop father. Along with a nodding acquaintanceship with maybe fifty lads in the Department. That didn’t make me any Philip Marlowe."
 © Peter Rozovsky 2008, 2012

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24 Comments:

Blogger The Clandestine Samurai said...

Not any I can think of, but this is because I probably have not read enough mysteries to be well acquainted with international authors yet. I shall read more in order to be able to answer this question.

July 25, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

In my book Hammett was Plato, Chandler was Aristotle, everyone else footnotes.

July 25, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, few would disagree. I do find myself wondering from time to time where Paul Cain would stand had he written more, and perhaps why Jonathan Latimer influence and popularity are not more widespread. I think his career may have been affected by the anti-Communist blacklist.

July 25, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

CS, if you do start reading more mysteries from abroad, you'll soon realize what an impression Chandler and Hammett made on other writers, and not just in the U.S. They were among the most effective ambassadors for American culture that this country has had. I wonder if the Postal Service has put their faces on stamps.

July 25, 2008  
Blogger Sucharita Sarkar said...

Unfortunately, Chandler is not easily available in India, so I've not read any novels by him yet, although I'm familiar with critical writing on him, as well as the books of Dashiel Hammett.

The hard-boiled school easily lend themselves to parody, for eg. in Sue Grafton's alphabet-murders (I've read till D is for Deadbeat), starring smooth-talking, sharp-shooting 'she-dick' Kinsey Millhone. But that is on the same side of the Atlantic.

Also there is the cartoonist Bill Watterson's take on the sub-genre, when his Calvin pretends to be the whiskey-guzzling Tracer Bullet. I cannot recall any Indian parallels, though.

July 25, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I have seen and enjoyed Calvin & Hobbes’ version of the hard-boiled detective. And, once again, it’s easy to imagine that Indian tastes in crime fiction might have been more influenced by British models thatn American ones.

July 25, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hardboiled novels and movies were quite successful in Italy.
The general public was fascinated by the explicit violence and by the frank sensuality of the female figures, while marxist critique praised Hammett and Chandler for the grim and realistic portrayal of the downsides of capitalistic society.
Yet,like westerns,hardboileds were seen as an uniquely American product.The society they described was very different from Italian society,or at least from how Italian society perceived itself.
Gadda and Sciascia admired Hammett and Chandler,but setting and motives of their novels were so different that any direct influence is not easily recognizable.
Nowadays many Italian crime writers focus on the downside of the "Italian dream" and the impoverished neighborhoods of Rome or Milan,and acknowledge Chandler as an important influence:among them Biondillo,Pinketts,Dazieri,Colaprico,Di Cataldo.
Carofiglio has mentioned Chandler,with Hammett,Block,Vachss and Ellroy,among his favourite writers.
Lucarelli considers "The Big Sleep" the most important crime novel ever written,Camilleri makes instead no secret of his preference for Hammett.
And then there is Italy's greatest crime fiction writer you've never heard of,sometimes even dubbed the "Italian Chandler",Giorgio Scerbanenco.
By far the most important writer of the "older guard" (he died in 1969),his work is the perfect validation of Declan Hughes's snippet about the origins of the hardboiled novel.
He was the great narrator of the Milan of the economic boom,that moment in history when the economic resurgence after the post-war slump propelled Italy among the world's most industrialized nations, newfound economic possibilities and massive internal immigration from the Lombard country and above all from the regions of the South transformed Milan into a metropolis almost overnight,and easy money and rampant consumerism changed the moral fibre of the city.
While his importance for the current generation of Italian crime writers simply cannot be overstated (Lucarelli,to say but a name,is a huge admirer of Scerbanenco) and today the annual prize for the best Italian noir/hardboiled novel bears his name,sadly for various reasons recognition came mainly after death.
I don't think he has ever been translated in English,but many of his works should be available in French and German.

Marco

July 25, 2008  
Blogger Kerrie said...

Just letting you know Peter that I have given you an "award". See http://paradise-mysteries.blogspot.com/2008/07/my-first-award.html which explains all.

July 25, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'd like to thank my family, my agent, my produc— Well, I'll take a look first. Thanks.

July 25, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Marco:

Thanks for another comprehensive and illuminating comment. So Italians loved noir and Westerns with that special fascination reserved for the exotic? Interesting. Sometimes I think North American readers have a related attitude: Chandler and Hammett are widely honored for reasons that may have as much to do with nostalgia as with recognition that they wrote about hard, tough subjects.

The opening scene of The Day of the Owl is one of the most chilling in all of literature. Sciascia’s crime novels have definite affinities with noir, but they cut much deeper. They are merciless in their dissection of the crime’s effect on individuals, how it makes them break down.

Thanks for all those names, a rich answer to my question about Chandler’s influence. And I had heard of Giorgio Scerbanenco, though I have not read him. I even mentioned him in a post here. I like very much that you call him a “narrator” of Milan’s boom moment. I wonder if Carlo Lucarelli could have done something for similar for Bologna had he decided to write more De Luca novels.

July 25, 2008  
Blogger N/A said...

British thriller writer Ian Fleming was heavily influenced by Chandler. He wrote a letter to Chandler, addressing him as "General" Chandler, from "Private" Fleming.

Chandler's influence shows whenever Fleming wrote about America and American criminals, such as "Live and Let Die," (awful film, great book) and "Diamonds Are Forever," (awful film, saved only by the presence of Sean Connery and John Barry's great soundtrack, but very good novel).

Chandler praised Fleming and pushed him into writing what I believe is Fleming's best novel, "From Russia With Love," (best film, best Connery performance, best novel).

You can read my take on Chandler in my online Crime Beat column at www.orchardpressmysteries.com/private_detective.html

No charge.

Paul Davis
daviswrite@aol.com
www.orchardpressmysteries.com/crime_beat.html


Fleming was very pleased by Chandler's favorable review of "Diamonds Are Forever

July 26, 2008  
OpenID krimileser said...

Peter, I cannot come up with something as profound as Marco's.

Chandler influence is palpable in some German crime fiction writers. One who has been translated into English is Jakob Arjouni.

July 26, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Paul, thanks for the wonderful information on Chandler and Ian Fleming. It was all new and fascinating to me, and I suspect many readers will not have guessed that a Chandler-Fleming connection existed. I have several of the recent paperback reissues of the Bond books, and you may ahve prodded me into reading them.

July 26, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Krimileser, I had forgotten about Jakob Arjouni. He's a good addition. His private eye, Kemal Kayankaya, can crack wise with the best of them, and the issues of gastarbeiter and immigrants Arjouni explores have some similarities to issues in Chandler multiethnic L.A.

July 26, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The funny thing is that Italian authors did write noirs and westerns,but set them in the USA.
I'm sure everyone is more or less acquainted with Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns,but there's also Tex,a much loved western comic which will celebrate 60 years come next September,and,on the noir side,the tv series "Tenente Sheridan" which achieved cult status in the Sixties.Even Scerbanenco began his career writing gialli set in Boston.

Re:Sciascia.You're right.In fact I see those writers I mentioned earlier as being influenced by Chandler closer to "hardboiled" while Sciascia or,for example,Carlotto are closer to "noir".Not that I could convincingly elaborate the difference between the two,mind you.A slightly different mix of the same ingredients,perhaps.
Speaking of chilling opening scenes,you should try Carlotto's The Goodbye Kiss or Death's Dark Abyss.The latter in particular is my favorite novel of his,and it's very powerful.

Loriano Machiavelli was for Bologna in the 70s what Scerbanenco had been for Milan in the 60s.
His stories,which featured Sarti Antonio,a honest,though but ultimately mellow-hearted police sergeant who resolved his cases more through dogged determination than deductive brilliance,followed closely the evolution of the city,from the birth of the student movements (one of the main characters is a radical left-wing student with whom Sarti forms an odd friendship) to terrorism and the Bologna massacre of August 2, 1980.
Machiavelli (who continues to write to this day) was another one of the 3-4 past masters of Italian crime fiction alongside Scerbanenco,Fruttero & Lucentini (who wrote mainly about Turin) and Renato Olivieri (Milan in the Eighties).
Lucarelli did in fact,with his Ispettore Cogliandro,write two novels and two short stories which read a bit like a homage to Sarti Antonio .
With regard to Lucarelli,in the last 7-8 years he mainly wrote nonfiction about various hot issues of recent and not-so-recent Italian history ,like the Pasolini Murder,the fascist concentration camps in Slovenia and Dalmatia and the Piazza Fontana bombing,but this year he has returned to fiction with an historic novel set in Massaua,Eritrea,during the first Italo-Ethiopian war.

Finally,since I've again spoken at length about Italian fiction,I hope I'll be forgiven if I mention my favorite among those who most closely followed the hardboiled tradition in America,Robert B.Parker.The first novel of his I read was the translation of the one in which he encounters his adoptive son and I loved it.

Marco

July 26, 2008  
Blogger N/A said...

Peter,

A blog has a good link to the BBC broadcast of Ian Fleming interviewing Chandler. I believe it is the only recording of Chandler's voice.

If you're going to reread Fleming, may I suggest you start with "From Russia With Love." I think Fleming's Red Grant character is a terrific killer, one of the best in fiction.

"Live and Let Die" is great as well, but it is dated somewhat, and some modern readers find it racist, as it deals with Back people in 1953. There are Black criminals in the novel, to be sure, but there are also a couple of postive Balck charactor as well.

In the BBC broadcast, Chandler praises Fleming's portrait of Harlem and St. Petersberg, FLA, two great scenes in the book.

Chandler also liked Fleming's portrait of Las Vegas in "Diamonds Are Forever."

Fleming was happy to hear this, because British critics mocked his books, saying "American Negroes don't speak like that..." - but Chandler disagreed and defended Fleming in print and on the radio.

Paul

Paul Davis
daviswrite@aol.com

July 26, 2008  
Blogger N/A said...

Peter,

I forgot to give you the link to the blog with the Fleming-Chandler
BBC broadcast:

www.ladymaidjewels.com/Blog/archives/001241

July 26, 2008  
Blogger N/A said...

Peter,

Sorry, but I left out the letter C in the blog address - here goes:

www.ladymaidjewels.com/Cblog/archives/001241.html

Paul

July 26, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Marco, many people know about Karl May's westerns, but I'm not sure they know that Italian authors did something similar with noir and westerns. I was unaware of it. Everyone does know about the spaghetti westerns, and perhaps there has been a resurgence of interest in them now that Clint Eastwood is a Serious Artist.

I like your suggesiton that noir and hard-boiled are different mixes of the same ingredients. Everyone has his or her own definition of noir. I suppose mine includes an element of hopelessness. In Sciascia's books, especially in the opening of The Day of the Owl, this come through in the sense that the entire town is hopelessly scared to speak up about the shooting.

Thanks again for some enticing suggestions about authors and books. I'd be especially curious about the Lucarelli.

July 26, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Paul:

Neither of those links seems to work. The possibility of hearing Chandler speak is tantalizing, so if you read this, could you check on the links again? Thanks.

And I'd be reading Fleming, not rereading him, I must admit. I'll take your advice and start with From Russia With Love, the title that launched a thousand punning newspaper headlines.

July 26, 2008  
Blogger N/A said...

Peter,

This is the address as I read it:

www.ladymaidjewels.com/Cblog/archives/001241.html

If it does not work, try using Google to search "BBC Interview Ian Fleming Raymond Chandler"

Paul

July 27, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

OK, thanks. I'll search the BBC Web site the next time I tune in for Charlie Gillett's World of Music.

July 27, 2008  
Blogger Kevin McCarthy said...

I think I recall reading that Haruki Murakami did his Phd or MA thesis on, and translated, Chandler when he did one or the other in Ohio, I think.

Too tired to look it up now, but I do remember him saying that Chandler was a big influence. I imagine someone has done their own Phd. or MA on just that!

July 25, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That makes me want to read Murakami.

July 25, 2012  

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