Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Raymond Chandler, father of '60s cinema?

1) Here's a bit of dialogue from Raymond Chandler's story "Blackmailers Don't Shoot." Tell me why you think it works:
"`You wouldn't have a gun, would you, Slippy' he said, nudging the Luger forward. `Turn slow and easy, Slippy. When you feel something against your spine, go on in, Slippy. We'll be right with you.'"
2) Here are two more short bits, question to follow:
"The lanky man's duck became a slide and the slide degenerated into a fall. He spread himself out on the bare carpet in a leisurely sort of way."
and
"Macdonald put his other hand up to the door-frame, leaned forward and began to cough. Bright red blood came out on his chin. His hands came down the door-frame slowly. Then his shoulder twitched forward, he rolled like a swimmer in a breaking wave, and crashed. He crashed on his face, his hat still on his head, the mouse-colored hair at the nape of his neck showing below it in an untidy curl."
Does that remind you of anything? Slow-motion death became a movie staple with Arthur Penn and Sam Peckinpah in the late 1960s and a cliché sometime thereafter; Chandler published his story in Black Mask in December 1933. Did Chandler's writing of the '30s influence Peckinpah's and Penn's film making of the '60s? What other authors have influenced directors or cinematographers? And what movie makers have influenced writers?
***
Chandler's short fiction, written with protagonists not named Philip Marlowe, is a good place to start for readers who want to experience the author outside Humphrey Bogart's stupendous shadow.

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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105 Comments:

Blogger Deadly Letters GTA said...

Chandler defined the genre in its nascent days - no two ways about it!

As he said in his 1944 essay “The Simple Art of Murder”:

Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. … He must be a complete man and a common man, yet an unusual man. He must be …a man of honor. He is neither a eunuch nor a satyr. I think he might seduce a duchess, and I’m quite certain he would not spoil a virgin. If he is a man of honor in one thing, he’s that in all things.

....

He gave us the template.

March 30, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Blogger has been eating comments all evening, so I'll copy them from the notifying e-mails. Here's one:

Deadly Letters GTA has left a new comment on your post "Raymond Chandler, father of the '60s":

Chandler defined the genre in its nascent days - no two ways about it!

As he said in his 1944 essay “The Simple Art of Murder”:

Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. … He must be a complete man and a common man, yet an unusual man. He must be …a man of honor. He is neither a eunuch nor a satyr. I think he might seduce a duchess, and I’m quite certain he would not spoil a virgin. If he is a man of honor in one thing, he’s that in all things.

....

He gave us the template.

March 30, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

He gave us the template in many ways, but I have never seen any references of the kind I made here.

Of course, I don't know if Chandler was the first to include in his writing what we would not call cinematic slow deaths. This sort of death finds its way into parodies of hard-boiled fiction. I'm guessing those parodies refer to Chandler.

March 31, 2010  
Blogger Loren Eaton said...

I really need to read some of Chandler's shorts. Everything I know about him (which isn't much) comes secondhand.

March 31, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Loren, I think that's often the way with Chandler. His influence, and that of Bogart's portrayals of Sam Spade as well as of Chandler's Marlowe, are so strong that we think we know Chandler even though we don't. It's a pleasure to read the stories without hearing and seeing Bogart, as superb as Bogart was. This might be good preparation for reading and rereading the novels, as well.

March 31, 2010  
Blogger Loren Eaton said...

This might be good preparation for reading and rereading the novels, as well.

I think that's true. There's a certain purity in short fiction, which probably is due to its length. A lot of extraneous stuff gets stripped away, leaving the genre's central core.

March 31, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You could be right, but it's not the brevity that sharpens my focus on the author. For me, it's a simple matter of having, say, "Mallory" as the protagonist rather than "Marlowe." If he'd written detective novels with a protagonist other than Marlowe, the Bogart-effacing principle would be in effect.

March 31, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

“Did Chandler's writing of the '30s influence Peckinpah's and Penn's film making of the '60s?” My gut instinct is to say no. I think the source is generally considered to be a ratcheted-up version of Akira Kurosawa’s samurai films. It’s also more a result of what could be accomplished with new-and-improved cinematographic equipment of the period. Like the impact that the invention of the Steadicam has had on filmmaking in recent years.

“Blackmailers Don’t Shoot” is Chandler’s earliest ss and he deliberately set about trying to write something that would be accepted by “Black Mask,” at the time (and today) generally accepted as the best of the detective fiction pulps. Chandler was heavily influenced by Dashiell Hammett’s writing as well as that of other Black Maskers. There are at least a couple of Hammett ss that have similar slo-mo scenes, although you could be right in noting the protracted nature of RC’s version vs Hammett’s style. RC would leach most of this element out of his work as time went on, although the earliest novels would have plenty of hardboiled violence. “BDS” was unavailable in print for many years, thus limiting its potential influence on filmmakers.

“And what movie makers have influenced writers?” Very interesting question. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any. Although there must be, as a number of books I have read over the past few years have had a very cinematic quality to them. Perhaps it’s more the impact of visual media in general, rather than specific filmmakers, which have influenced this…?

March 31, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, that was a pretty good set of answers for an avowed Chandler non-expert.

“Did Chandler's writing of the '30s influence Peckinpah's and Penn's film making of the '60s?” My gut instinct is to say no. I think the source is generally considered to be a ratcheted-up version of Akira Kurosawa’s samurai films.

But Kurosawa is famously said to have been influenced by Western movies and books, especially Westerns and crime fiction. (Don't ask me for any citations, though. It's just one of those things that everyone knows.) Also, his first movie with Toshiro Mifune was the hard-boiled police procedural "Stray Dog," which has all kinds of affinities with the Mean Streets. So the Chandler influence could still be there, albeit at second or third hand.

It’s also more a result of what could be accomplished with new-and-improved cinematographic equipment of the period. Like the impact that the invention of the Steadicam has had on filmmaking in recent years.

This leads to a point I left out of my post for fear it was growing too long: that habits of seeing we have developed since Penn, Peckinpah and so on inevitably influece how we see what went before.

“And what movie makers have influenced writers?” Very interesting question. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any. Although there must be, as a number of books I have read over the past few years have had a very cinematic quality to them. Perhaps it’s more the impact of visual media in general, rather than specific filmmakers, which have influenced this…?

That's it. Many of us have seen descriptions of books or stories as "cinematic" and may have so described them ourselves. What do we mean by this? Heavy emphasis on visual description? Verbal equivalents of an establishing shot to open a scene? Something that reminds the reader of John Ford?

April 01, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Am reading, "The Maltese Falcon," and try as I am, cannot get Bogart off the pages or out of my mind.

April 01, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

There's no need to try. Just enjoy the writing on its own terms, no matter who or what it reminds you of.

Now, will the earlier movie versions of The Maltese Falcon get Bogart, Ator, Lorre, Greenstreet and Huston off your mind? Nah, they'll just make you appreciate them more.

April 01, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Peter, I think extended, slow-motion death scenes were always popular, especially in gangster movies. But it used to be the actor who provided the slow-motion, not the camera. Do you remember the Peter Sellars parody of those scenes in The Party?

April 01, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Nice use of the bugle in that scene.

Slow-motion death may always have been popular, but what came before "always"? When does the first such scene occur, and does it do so in a gangster movie?

That's a good observation that the actor used to provide the slow motion. I wonder if those early, human slow-motion scenes aestheticized death, the way the later, Penn/Peckinpah scenes did. That's really what the Chandler scenes reminded me of.

April 01, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

I wonder if those early, human slow-motion scenes aestheticized death, the way the later, Penn/Peckinpah scenes did.

Peter, please don't throw words like 'aestheticized' at me. I'm just a humble country boy. I'm easily confused, you know.

I think Cagney's death in the The Roaring Twenties has a slow-motion feel to it as well as one of the best death certificates ever written in Hollywood: 'He used to be a big shot.'

Although, being a fan of concision and economy I prefer Cagney's death by Federal Express in the earlier The Public Enemy.

April 01, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Does that mean you're a cultchie?

Yeah, I squirmed a bit at using a word like "aestheticized," but you know the sort of death I'm talking about.

The Penns and Peckinpahs of the moviemaking world could have been influenced by 1930s slow-motion deaths, whether on the page or on the screen.

April 01, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Peter, “…’cinematic’ and may have so described them ourselves. What do we mean by this? Heavy emphasis on visual description? Verbal equivalents of an establishing shot to open a scene? Something that reminds the reader of John Ford?” – Verbal equivalents of an establishing shot? Definitely. But I also mean that books having a “cinematic” quality are books that, by and large, read more like screenplays than novels. IE, the visual elements of the story (actors, setting, costume, objects, etc.) are described in such a way that produces an image of those things in my mind and little is left to my imagination because the “filling in” has been done by the author. This might be created minimally with a kind of visual shorthand by the author or depicted with the level of detail that a production designer or set decorator might need to re-create the scene. But, again, my imagination does not “take flight.”

They are also literal (sometimes too literal) – this, of course, is often employed by writers to produce that “gritty realism” in which a Chandler-esque evocative narrative that “interrupts” the realistic dialogue and action would be out of place. These novels also tend to be more dialogue-driven, less character- or description-driven, the “telling” type rather than the “showing” novels of Lawton and McIlvanney discussed here recently.

In these “screenplay” books there are few memorable scene compositions, so they are most definitely not like John Ford (or David Lean) movies. Their visuals and production values are more along the lines of that found in a weekly TV drama—you can get memorable writing and acting but not indelible images found in films like “My Darling Clementine” or “Lawrence of Arabia."

April 01, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Overheated slow-motion death scenes were common in the pulp mags of the 1910s-1930s. When sound came to film there was a scramble to get good stories with good _dialogue_ on screen. Many “photoplay” writers turned to the pulps for inspiration for more realistic dialogue after the initial fumblings of the late 1920s-ca. early 1931. In these pulp sources they also would have found not only the necessary dialogue but the appropriate action to go with it.

Some of the earliest silent films are laughable to today’s audiences for the protracted death scenes in some of them. These were often drawn from plays and the larger-than-life quality of a production on stage before a live audience, many of whose members would be at some distance from the stage, made for an awkward transition to the screen and its closer action.

The most laughable, protracted death scene I can think of is Tybalt’s in the Bolshoi Ballet’s version of “Romeo and Juliet,” choreography by Leonid Lavrovsky. Crikey, will that guy _never_ die, the audience wonders.

April 01, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Overheated slow-motion death scenes were common in the pulp mags of the 1910s-1930s.

So Chandler may have been picking up on a trend already well-established and doing it well enough that the scenes hold up today. It must be significant that the bits I quoted were from what I think was Chandler's first short story.

Some of the earliest silent films are laughable to today’s audiences for the protracted death scenes in some of them. These were often drawn from plays and the larger-than-life quality of a production on stage before a live audience, many of whose members would be at some distance from the stage, made for an awkward transition to the screen and its closer action.

One would think that D.W> Griffith put an end to that sort of thing.

The most laughable, protracted death scene I can think of is Tybalt’s in the Bolshoi Ballet’s version of “Romeo and Juliet,” choreography by Leonid Lavrovsky. Crikey, will that guy _never_ die, the audience wonders.

Chandler would have known what to do about that: Have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.

April 01, 2010  
Blogger Fred said...

I have read comments by film critics that Kurosawa had also been strongly influenced by Dashiell Hammet's no name Continental Op.

April 01, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Does that mean you're a cultchie?

Peter, technically I'm a Jackeen having being delivered in the Coombe hospital in Dublin but my parents were from Leitrim, and I grew up in Longford, so that makes me a Culchie. Bad as that sounds, I can promise you, it's no worse than being born a Canadian.

I liked Bonnie and Clyde but I suspect its success had a lot to do with its graphic depiction of violence, rather than the Nouvelle Vague aesthetic Arthur Penn claimed to be influenced by. Certainly, Penn's later movies, which lacked any great degree of violence, failed to strike a chord with audiences.

And what can one say about Peckinpah? Whatever you think of The Wild Bunch or Bring Me The Head Of ... it's very hard to see either of those movies as being the descendants of The Big Sleep or The Long Goodbye.

April 01, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Culchie, jackeen, and whatever word that is that Dubliners call people from Wicklow are all verbal music to me. I don't know which are better, worse, higher, lower or more or less insulting than any other. But then, Canadian humor is full of Newfie jokes, disparaging remarks about people from Newfoundland. Oddly enough, some of these are identical to other ethnic jokes, only with different names inserted in the blanks.

I keep wanting to see American crime fiction at the root of everything You mention the Nouvelle Vague; well, Godard was big on American crime fiction, too.

I would compare Peckinpah to Chandler except in that one, limited technical respect. I may make another post based on a bit from another Chandler story that certainly reminded me not in the least of Peckinpah.

April 01, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

From what I've read of Chandler's likes and dislikes in books and films (based on his letters), I think RC would have detested Peckinpah and would not be flattered to think his writing had influenced Peckinpah's filmmaking.

And why Peckinpah? Why not director __________________ who made/makes films lovingly depicting stylized violence? I don't think they all follow in a direct line from Peckinpah, as though he were the Lucy of the style.

But then I love Chandler and loathe Peckinpah so I am a bit befuddled by this entire thread.

April 01, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Finished the book, "The Maltese Falcon," which I could not put down until the last page was turned. It was quite a read, fascinating, terse, all action and dialogue.

And tinged with Bogart throughout.

Now it's time to see the film again and read another book by Hammett.

And to read Chandler, too.

April 01, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Peter, it's Easter/Passover here (ie. horribly boring) so those Newfie jokes sound interesting (a bit like our Kerry jokes).

The French were the first to appreciate JT so that gives them a pass in my book, whatever their other failings.

v-word: squirt

April 01, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Peckinpah because he and the Arthur Penn of "Bonnie and Clyde" are associated closely with slow depictions of death that give the viewer a chance to think about what he or she is looking at. This does not imply that Chandler intended a similar effect on readers three and a half decades earlier, only that it may have a similar effect today on a reader for whom those movies and other that followed are part of the way he or she sees the world.

On the one hand, I don't suggest that such a Chandler influence exists; I merely speculate that it might. On the other, Chandler might have exerted such influence irrespective of any loathing he might have had for, say, Peckinpah, and even if he would have been horrified by the uses to which Peckinpah of anyone else put such influence.

April 01, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The French were the first to appreciate JT so that gives them a pass in my book, whatever their other failings.

v-word: squirt


Who's JT?

Nice v-word.

April 02, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Finished the book, "The Maltese Falcon," which I could not put down until the last page was turned. It was quite a read, fascinating, terse, all action and dialogue.

And tinged with Bogart throughout.

Now it's time to see the film again and read another book by Hammett.


Kathy, it may be time to read "The Glass Key" or some of the Continental Op stories. "The Thin Man" is pretty good, too. It brings out a bit more of the dark side of the story than the movie does.

April 02, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Who's JT?

Sorry, Peter. My mind must have been elsewhere. You mentioned Godard and the French love of American crime fiction so Jim Thompson popped into my head. But he's not someone who's famous enough to be reduced to his initials, at least without prior reference.

April 02, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yep, sadly, perhaps, J.T. never achieved that level of mass popularity. Who in crime writing was sufficiently well known to recognized by a first name, nickname or initials? Dash (also known as Sam). Not sure if "Dame Agatha" counts.

April 02, 2010  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Think I will try, "The Thin Man," and re-see the film of "The Maltese Falcon."

And need to crack a Chandler, too.

April 03, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I've read a good portion of Chandler and Hammett, but lots of it before I started this blog. There's good reason for me to reread now, not least so I can think about the international influence that both these guys had.

April 04, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

Peter, I've only finally started reading Chandler's pulp stories over 30 years after first reading 'Farewell My Lovely', but I'm finding that if I read them especially fast I enjoy them so much more: perhaps because of the pacing of the stories and the crisp, curt sentences, even at the risk of failing to wallow in some of his choicer phrases and metaphors.

Of the (first) four of the 'Library of America' collection I've read so far 'Finger Man' is my favourite, although 'Blackmailers' isn't far behind.
And, given the similarity in their names, I have to believe that Mallory is something of a 'test drive' for the model that would eventually metamorphose into Marlowe

May 04, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Marlowe certainly has roots in the early stories, and some of his stories were reprinted with the protagonist renamed Marlowe.

Last night's reading was "Killer in the Rain," an obvious prototype for The Big Sleep, with similar or even identical situations and street names, and characters whose names change only slightly in the novel. Carmen Dravec becomes Carmen Sternwood, for example, and Owen Taylor from the novel is Carl Owen in the story.

May 04, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

So Roddy Doyle had an honourable precedent for 'The Woman Who Walked Into Doors'?, then, since Chandler also re-used ideas and characters and portions of earlier works in later novels.

Aside from 'The Long Goodbye' which I consider a Masterpiece which transcends genres, and literature, I might eventually find myself preferring the blueprint crime stories to the novels they were to later form part of.

Even more, they make me want to seek out less feted 'Black Mask' authors, given what I've read about BM editor, Cap Shaw's 'vision'

May 04, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

T.C.O., Shakespeare did something similar with Falstaff, and several books of the Bible even have sequels, so there is no doubt the precedent is honorable.

Several good anthologies have introduced me to writers such as Raoul Whitfield, Frederick Nebel, Norbert Davis, the great Paul Cain and more. You might look for Hard-Boiled and The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps.

May 04, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

Cheers, Peter
I'll keep an eye out for them

May 04, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I think you'll like them. They were my gateway to pulp-era writers other than Hammett and Chandler. One big surprise from the lot was Erle Stanley Gardner.

May 04, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

I have quite a large collection of American crime writer novels: I usually try to get vintage editions, or that feature good cover artwork, but I think the only Gardner I have is a vintage 'green Penguin' Perry Mason mystery.

I presume you'll expect that I'll be surprised by the Gardner, and, although I've recently got re-acquainted with vintage Perry Mason episodes via DVD box-sets, and am loving them, I find it hard to imagine Gardner writing hard-boiled fiction that compares with Chandler or Hammett.

But I look forward to being pleasantly surprised.
And following on your recommendation I've just ordered "The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps" and Paul Cain's 'Fast One'.
I'm in Ireland so it'll be at least another week before I'll receive it, but I'll check out a Gardner first.
But I'm also looking forward to seeing how Paul Cain measures up to 'The Masters'

May 04, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I presume you'll expect that I'll be surprised by the Gardner

TCO: I was surprised by Gardner; I'm not sure anyone else will be. He was so prolific that I just thought of him as a hack writer of courtroom drama, but damn, the man could write a crime story. He did write for Black Mask, after, which I had not known until I read him in anthologies. The story that I liked so much suffers only from an excess of that device whereby the action stops, and the narrator spends the last few pages telling what happened. Lots of authors did that back then, but Gardner was so legendarily productive that one wonders if he would rush through the end of one story so he could get to the next.

Paul Cain's few novels were cobbled together from stories, one or two which turn up in the anthologies. I don't want to raise anyone's hopes too high, but I have said that if he had written a few more books as good as "Fast One," fans of Hammett and Chandler would argue over which was second-best behind Paul Cain.

That may have been just a touch of hyperbole, but a friend pointed out recently how astonishingly fresh "Fast One" seems, and she was right. It's like Chandler and Hammett meet David Goodis, amazing stuff for a book published in 1932

I don't know where in Ireland you are, but No Alibis in Belfast is a crime-fiction mecca, and the new Gutter Bookshop seems crime-friendly.

May 04, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

I'm in Dublin, Peter: there may well be a specialist crime bookshop in Dublin but, prior to the Internet, I preferred scouring the second-hand bookshops to find 'hidden gems'.
Which is where I first discovered Jim Thompson,...and a whole bunch of vintage paperbacks.
I almost prefer my pulp paperbacks to be 'browned' paper.

Your point about "the narrator spends the last few pages telling what happened" is interesting because it brings me back to my original comment about preferring to read these Chandlers stories 'at speed': quite apart from the fact that I think it suits the pace of the narrative, I could always depend on Chandler explaining everything, in sufficient detail, in the last couple of pages.

(btw, I can't remember how I chose this 'moniker': but I suspect it was probably for a soccer forum, similar to Jose Mourinho's 'The Special One')

May 04, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You recently lost a specialist crime bookshop in Murder Ink, near Trinity. There's a big secondhand bookshop near there whose name I don't know where I bought Liam O'Flaherty's The Assassin. But the aforementioned Gutter Bookshop, in Temple Bar, has hosted events with a number of crime writers, so I have to assume it will be a good source for crime fiction. And any good independent bookshop deserves support.

That habit of the narrator wrapping up the story with a burst of expository prose was much remarked and spoofed in later years by humorists like S.J. Perelman and Woody Allen. I don't know why that convention developed. Perhaps it happened because the pulp writers had to churn out stories so fast.

May 04, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

Bookshops, and city-centre retailers generally, have been badly hit by the high rents charged over the course of the runaway growth of the 'Celtic Tiger'.
(and the situation wasn't helped by the fact that landlords weren't required to review rents downwards as part of lease reviews).
A big chain of bookstores had to close recently.
I think I might have browsed in 'Murder Ink' a few years back but I hadn't been reading much crime fiction in recent years as I wanted to 'expand my horizons'

May 05, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Declan Hughes' City of Lost Girls has some nice, cutting asides about the post-Tiger economic bust.

May 05, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

I've not read any of his books, or his buddy, John Connolly, although I've heard good things about him, generally.
They're both regular reviewers on the arts review programme, 'The View' on RTE.
I think there's some resentment towards Connolly from some of the local literary review corps, which I suppose is par for the course

I read John Banville's debut crime novel recently but although it was a fun read, it was very predictable.
Character, and plot-wise,
I think he's seen many of the same movies I have

May 05, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I wonder if some people resent Connolly not just for his success but also because he sets his books in the U.S.

Hughes has seen the same movies and read the same books you have, too, but he does wonderful things with them.

May 05, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

I don't think thats the reason with Connolly
There was a recent documentary feature on him and it sounded like some of his former Irish Times colleagues were hoping he wouldn't make it.
(26 million Worldwide sales has the potential to breed a lot of resentment, certainly)

I must check out Hughes next

Banville certainly isn't the crime writer I was hoping Ireland could produce

May 05, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The hopes of a nation are a heavy weight to bear, but I'd say Declan Hughes and Ken Bruen are crime writers for Ireland to be proud of.

May 05, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

Yes, I've heard good things about Bruen, too, but now an outsider has recommended him it gives the recommendation more weight.

Have you read any of the Banville crime novels?

May 05, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I haven't read the Banville/Black novels; I think I have two lying around.

Interesting that an outsider's recommendation carries more weight. A number of Irish crime writers, Bruen among them, have said that Irish crime writing does not get much respect in its own country.

May 05, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

I don't know, specifically, what his experiences are, but there are a number of factors:

1).Our strong literary tradition, particularly in the 20th century, and crime writing being judged a 'low art' by literary snobs: I think Banville says he writes 10 times as much in a day writing his 'Black' novels as in his Banville novels.

2). The difficulty in creating a recognisable Irish crime novel, as opposed to imitating the American, or English, or even Simenon/French style

May 05, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

A number of current Irish crime writers have cited the formidable weight of Ireland's twentieth-century literature as inhibiting acceptance of a "low" genre such as crime fiction. (Though Flann O'Brien and Liam O'Flaherty seem to get lost somewhere.)

Declan Burke suggests that the breakthrough of chick lit helped pave the way for acceptance of genre writing such as crime fiction.

As for your second point, many of the current wave acknowledge American predecessors. Bruen has said that "All my influences are American. That's how I learned to read. That's how I learned to write." Declan Burke's first book was an acknowledged bow to Chandler. Brian McGilloway invokes Westerns. Declan Hughes has his own debts to Chandler and Ross Macdonald.

Maybe all it takes to create something distinctly Irish is to stop straining to create something distinctly Irish.

May 05, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

I'd imagine if your influences are so singular, it would be hard to avoid coming across as a pale imitation and thus cause many potential readers to say 'why settle for second best'.

Of course, if a writer, Hughes say, can overcome or incorporate his influences into a unique style of his own, that makes him so much better a writer.

But the American, and English, styles will have been formed, and developed, over an extended period of time, and the writers probably fed off each other, ideas, and influence-wise, so those styles would't have been in any way, overnight'.

Whether an identifiably Irish style will ever develop will depend on how much this relatively recent development of Irish crime writers can shed themselves wholly of their influences, or, at least, make them recognisably less important to their work

May 05, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I say let the writers have their own way, and we'll see what happens. The Irish authors I mentioned are forthright about their American influences, but they seem no less Irish to me, not that I have any idea what that means. But I certainly don't read them and think that they're aping anyone else.

In a very real sense, all hard-boiled crime fiction stems from the U.S., so influences will have to be there.

May 05, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

So, I guess thats Hughes and Bruen I need to check out.
In addition to Cain, of course.

Have you read any of John Connolly's stuff?

And, from talking to the Irish crime writers that you have, and without mentioning names, have any of them expressed their opinions on Banville 'slumming it' as Black?

May 05, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I haven't read Connolly, and I have no behind-the-scenes tidbits about Banville. Declan Burke had been dubious about Banville's attitude but dropped his doubts after interviewing the man.

Banville appeared at the 2008 Sunday Independent Book Festival as Benjamin Black, but he appeared in the festival's main segment in Dublin, rather than the two-day crime segment in Dun Laoghaire. I found that odd at the time.

May 05, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

I've just discovered that my 'Marlowe' DVD box-set, featuring Powers Boothe, consists of adaptations of those Chandler pulp stories.
I remember seeing some of them back in the 80's, but I hadn't read any of the stories at that time.

I'm going to see what kind of a job they did of 'Finger Man' right now: the picture quality isn't the best and they might have spent too much attention to period detail, but Powers Boothe is certainly a good choice for the lead even if calling him Marlowe is a misnomer.

Cheers

May 05, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I had never heard of Powers Boothe or those adaptations. They could be worth a look. Thanks.

May 05, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

Given that it links right back to your original question you should definitely check it out.
But I must confess to being somewhat disappointed with this one.
For the most part they were faithful to the story, and included most, if not all, of the most memorable lines of dialogue.

But the music was a turn-off; they probably devoted too much time in recreating a period look, - perhaps they should have shot it in colour, - and they couldn't quite seem to make up their mind whether it was a spoof or a serious adaptation
(Gayle Hunnicutt was still beautiful, but way too old as Sally Glen, and she came across somewhat ludicrously in her delivery)

May 06, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

A correction on Paul Cain: "Seven Slayers" is a collection of stories. I'd misremembered it as a novel, possibly because "Fast One," which really is a novel, was serialized and breaks into neat sections, which makes it read a bit like a collection of stories. But it's a novel and a superb one.

May 06, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I don’t associate Chandler with music.

With respect to spoofs and serious adaptations, my current reading of Chandler’s earliest crime stories has reminded me that he was a lot more hard-boiled than we think.

I was surprised when I learned how recent the Powers Boothe "Marlowe" was. Chandler and Marlowe are so popular that breaking away from the mist of nostalgia has to be exceedingly difficult. The movie "Marlowe," with James Garner, took the daring step of breaking away from a period look, a jarring step for first-time viewers who know the old movies or the books.

May 06, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

The music was, in my opinion, a misjudged mix of 'jaunty' with the more typical 'lonesome sax'.
It served only to confuse me regarding the intentions of the makers of the series.

I agree with you of the tone of the stories: if Hammett came first, and Chandler was in part influenced by him, the stories were tougher, and deserved a better treatment than this first viewing suggested the entire series was.

Stories like 'Blackmailers Don't Shoot' is almost from a different planet to 'The Long Goodbye', which is still his crowning achievement, I think, but I'd like to think that they can be done a helluva lot better than this one was.

'Marlowe' was fun, although James Garner probably imbued with a tad too much of his 'Jim Rockford' persona.
Garner is a superb actor, though.

And, speaking of radical adaptations: Robert Altman's 'The Long Goodbye' is a brilliant film and I think his approach was a brave and rewarding one.
(I'm not so much a Chandler fan that I can't recognise that).

I suspect 'Chinatown' is the best non-Chandler Marlowe, ever.

Perhaps even the best 'Marlowe'

May 06, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The lure of the lonesome sax must be irresistible. It may be especially jarring with respect to the early stories. I mentioned how surprisingly hard-boiled they are, and this blog's resident guest Chandler-lover says Chandler got less hard-boiled as his career progressed. I think the lonesome sax came later and was part of the metamorphosis of hard-boiled into a style, even a pose. Its imposition on earlier, genuinely hard-boiled tales might well seem odd.

I was underwhelmed the one time I've seen "Chinatown," possibly because its reputation is so huge. But it's a dark story, all right.

May 06, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

I'd definitely agree with the resident guest Chandler-lover.
But that still won't stop me loving 'The Long Goodbye' which is also, I think, his most lyrical, even 'poetic' work.

You're spot on about that sax; although, ironically the person(s) responsible may have been influenced by the gorgeous 'Chinatown' score: but that score was consistent,and appropriate to the tone, and, despite the careful attention to period detail, that aspect wasn't that noticeable, or as big a 'selling point' as in the Marlowe series.

I'll still watch the remainder of the series, though.

And give 'Chinatown' another look.
I've watched it at least five times which is a lot for me, but its appeal never wanes

May 06, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I wouldn't say the sax was a bad decision, at least not until I've seen some of the series. I just wonder if the producers and director were exercising their poetic license deliberately in bringing to early Chandler a touch characteristic of much later Chandler-derived productions.

May 06, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

There was undoubtedly an element of that.
Which was misjudged in my view as the crime stories are, for the most part, a completely different animal to the more acclaimed, later, novels.

But it was the alternating of that sax sound, and the jokier type of music which was more suitable for a spoof, which for me was the problem with the music

May 06, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

That might be the definition of 'a curate's egg'

May 06, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Blogger is continuing to function erratically when it functions it all, so here's a comment that should have appeared ...

The Chosen One has left a new comment on your post "Raymond Chandler, father of '60s cinema?":

That might be the definition of 'a curate's egg'
...

May 06, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And here's my reply:

Either that or a creative interpretation. I'll let you know when I've seen a few episodes.

In the meantime, I am enjoying reading the hard-edged early stories, most recently "Nevada Gas" and "Spanish Blood."

May 06, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

"I was underwhelmed the one time I've seen 'Chinatown,' possibly because its reputation is so huge." -- I couldn't agree more, Peter. The enormous reputation of this film among screenwriters, directors, film historians, etc. -- as well as the general public -- has always baffled me. I will grant that, for a color film its cinematography managed to capture a noir mood but the screenplay, direction, and acting are no better than any number of post-war films noir.

May 06, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

What I remember most about Chinatown is that it seemed intelligently planned. Take the old hard-boiled/noir trope of deep, dark family secrets. Robert Towne, who wrote the sceenplay, was obviously aware of this but knew he had to heighten it for an audience several decades removed from the original versions.

Perhaps that aspect came as an especial shock to viewers. I know about Chinatown's reputation in the movie world. I wonder what readers think of it, readers who know their Chandler, Hammett and Ross Macdonald.

Towne also had the civic-corruption angle covered, another sign that he knew his hard-boiled history and how to make intelligent use of it. But beyond that, I can't say the movie made a big impression on me.

May 06, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

Peter, I've enjoyed reading those stories also.
'Red Wind', which I haven't read yet, seems to be most people's favourite but I suspect I might end up loving the earlier stories, like 'Blackmailer...': i.e., those before he got to hone his writing style.

Perhaps the strongest aspect of 'Chinatown', for me is its script, and the intelligent way its structured.

Jack Nicholson's performance,....arguably his best; John Huston's malevolent cameo,...Daniel Day Lewis was clearly paying attention,.... and the recreation of mood, and sense of time an place,...not to mention Polanski's expert pacing and direction makes it an unimproveable Masterpiece for me

May 06, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

Peter, just scanning the early comments on this topic, and your original question, as my various comments went off topic, but I'd be very surprised if the filmmakers slo-mo scenes were inspired by Chandler pulp prose.
(I thought that 'Blackmailers' passage especially memorable, myself).

Kurosawa, whose 'Seven Samurai' is the greatest film ever made, in my opinion, certainly had some wonderful slo-mo scenes, and although his brilliant 'Yojimbo' is loosely based on Hammett's great novel, 'Red Harvest', he is more likely to have been influenced by John Ford,...notably, I think, the massacre scene in 'Fort Apache',..and all the way back to Eisenstein, than Chandler's prose, although there are definite similarities.

I love 'Alfredo Garcia', although I missed the opportunity to see it on the big screen, but I'm thinking now in theme, at least, it might have been influenced by 'The Long Goodbye', rather than any of the crime stories
(though its been a few years since I last saw it)

May 06, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I don't know that the greatest movie ever is, but "Seven Samurai" deserves consideration for any list. And yes, Kurosawa is said to have been influenced by Westerns.

I haven't seen "Alfredo Garcia.

May 07, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

T.C.O., I got in some trouble for this post. I wasn’t suggesting that there was a historical link between Chandler and slo-mo movie scenes, just speculating that there might have been. Reception theory is or was popular in art history. Perhaps similar principles applied to crime fiction and popular film might provide a framework for discussing this. Maybe the discussion could begin with the proposition that early slow-motion scenes in pulp fiction prepared American audiences not to be shocked when such scenes came up in movies. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to start that discussion. Let some professor do it.

May 07, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I mentioned that Robert Towne appears to have read some mid-twentieth-century American crime fiction and brought that knowledge to bear in his script for Chinatown. I have nothing bad to say about the movie, just that it did not bowl me over.

It may be heretical to say so, but I found the movie version of L.A. Confidential more memorable. Now, before anyone starts a knock-down, drag-out critical discussion, I said “more memorable.” I’m not presuming to say which of the two was a better film.

May 07, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

Peter, yes, I understood that was only something you were suggesting.
Its quite possible,though, especially in Kurosawa's case, particularly as he was so well read, - cf. his adaptations of Dostoevsky, Gorky, the aforementioned Hammett, and Ed McBain (for 'High and Low').

The natural presumption would be that people working in a particular artistic medium are influenced more by peers they admire, than by artists of another medium.

As I read the second quote, as I was reading the story, I was picturing it and although I didn't immediately think of the films you cite, I thought what a wonderful metaphor it was

May 07, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

Well, its all about opinions, Peter.
But, quite apart from anything else, Polanski is a far superior director to Hansen.
In fact for me he is one of the great film directors, even if not quite in the same league as Ford and Kurosawa, to name but two.

But I hated the ending of the film version of 'LAC'; its a well made, well-acted film, and for the most part efficiently directed.
But when I read the book, subsequent to viewing the film, I felt cheated.

Towne may have read all the right crime thrillers, but 'Chinatown' never felt especially cliched.
I mean how many classic crime books have we read with a theme of 'big city corruption' or 'femme fatales', for example?
But the script was so beautifully structured, the film so perfectly paced, that if I had the time I could imagine watching and re-watching it.

It's like the Irish comedian, Frank Carson's tag line: "its the way I tell 'em'

May 07, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

especially in Kurosawa's case, particularly as he was so well read, - cf. his adaptations of Dostoevsky, Gorky, the aforementioned Hammett, and Ed McBain (for 'High and Low').

Don't forget Shakespeare, for Throne of Blood. Kurosawa was famously willing so seek inspiration in the West, whether high or low. I have read that his may have inhibited his popularity in Japan.

May 07, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

Of course, yes.
How could I have forgotten 'Throne of Blood'
I know that the more established director, Mizoguchi, was seriously put out about 'the young whippersnapper', Kurosawa garnering high praise in the West for 'Rashomon', when his works were being overlooked.

So there may have been a lot of 'professional jealousy' among his compatriot peers, a la John Connolly

May 07, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Polanski is a far superior director to Hansen.

Few would deny that, I expect. It even feels weird to see Hansen referred to by his last name only. I'm not sure he deserves that honor. I'm not sure it's all about opinions, though. That sounds dangerously close to "all opinions are equal," which I don't believe for one second. If this were a blog about movies, I'd marshal arguments for "L.A. Confidential," and I'd expect you to do the same for Polanski, But it isn't, so I won't.

My main recollection of "L.A. Confidential" is similar to what I said about Robert Towne's "Chinatown" script. I noticed ways that it used material true to the time of its setting, then heightened the effect by presenting it more explicitly.

May 07, 2010  
Blogger Fred said...

Kurosawa also directed _Ran_ which was loosely inspired by _King Lear_ and an actual incident, from what I understand, in Japanese history.

May 07, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

For me the inevitable comparison with Kurosawa is ukiyo-e. woodblock prints, which I understand were valued as art in the West well before Japanese themselves recognized them as anything but commercial ephemera.

In re Kurosawa, not that my viewing experience is anywhere near wide enough to lend weight to the evaluation, but if pressed, I'd say Takashi Shimura is the greatest movie actor that ever was.

May 07, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Fred, I knew one of his movies owed something to Lear. I haven't seen Ran. though.

Kurosawa was quite a man: influenced by Shakespeare and, in turn, influenced Star Wars (Hidden Fortress).

May 07, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

That sounds dangerously close to "all opinions are equal," which I don't believe for one second.
Its funny how there always to be such a critical concensus about 'Citizen Kane', for example, but not about one 'greatest' book.

I suppose opinions are formed by prejudices, preferences, an undefinable 'x' factor, for example.
As in 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder'.

When you're comparing two works of art I suppose you could get down to listing your key criteria, and the weight you apply to each, in the overall mix.
And to what extent you allow 'rules' to be broken

May 07, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

None of this implies, of course, that anyone need be swayed by a better or more knowledgeable opinion.

But yes, it helps to state what one's criteria are and also to know one's subject well. I could tentatively place any number of movie directors in the pantheon, but Hitchcock is the only one whose movies I've seen nearly all of. Therefore sweeping statements about Hitchcock from me will have more authority than similar statements about Howard Hawks (assuming, of course, that my opinions are worth a damn in the first place.)

But, sure, what do we mean by "great"? Pioneeing? Influential? Unsurpassed?

For me, the greatest artist by far in Western history in any medium was Giotto, but he didn't know diddly about human anatomy. I have also read that the great violinist Paganini's crazy violin magic is the stuff that everday violin students do today in their practice sessions. But are they greater violinists than Paganini was? I think not.

May 07, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

.....not forgetting, of course, the impact on one's critical faculties of the mood one is in when one is reading a book, or viewing a film! :)

But, just getting back to one element, pacing in a film, which might be comparable to a book.
And which I said was a critical factor for me with 'Chinatown'.
If one feels the writer/director lingers overlook on one scene/shot, it can interrupt what one perceives as 'the natural flow' of the story, and immediately cause one to downgrade it.
But then, upon reflection, after viewing/reading the complete work one might re-assess one's opinion regarding the earlier scene.

As for Hitchcock, I've probably seen all but his earliest British films and these 3 films I consider 'Movie Perfection': 'Vertigo', 'Psycho', and 'Rear Window'

May 07, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Vertigo is moving up on my Hitchcock list, but it's not yet up there with Rear Window, North by Northwest or Strangers on a Train.

Some of the early British Hitchcocks are a treat. The Lodger is a silent movie but still recognizably "Hitchcockian." And Blackmail, the first British talkie, has an opening sequence that is a virtual textbook of the changeover from silent to sound.

If one feels the writer/director lingers overlook on one scene/shot, it can interrupt what one perceives as 'the natural flow' of the story, and immediately cause one to downgrade it.

Unless that scene or shot is so good by itself that it elevates the rest of the film along with it.

No examples come immediately to mind, by the way.

May 07, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

sorry, forgot 'North By Northwest'
I knew there was four of them!!

Unless that scene or shot is so good by itself that it elevates the rest of the film along with it.
Have you seen his early British film, 'Young and Innocent'?
I could watch the 'Drummer Man' scene, over and over: brilliant climax; whether it was worth the wait is arguable.

Speaking of 'Strangers On A Train', there was a time when I devoured Highsmith novels.
Whether she wrote any of her novels with an eye on cinematic adaptations there are one or two I'd like to see made into films

May 07, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The only Highsmith I've read is The Tremor of Forgery.

I once had to return a defective tape of am early Hitchcock movie to the store. The movie might have been Young and Innocent.

May 07, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Tremor of Forgery might make, I don't know, an Antonioni-like film. Nothing much happens. The book is mostly atmosphere and small incidents.

May 07, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

I don't think I've read that one but I would definitely love to see what a quality filmmaker could do with 'Edith's Diary' and 'The Blunderer'

I think the 'Drummer Man' scene from 'Young and Innocent' might be on YouTube

May 07, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I made a post about Tremor of Forgery here.

May 07, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

the 'Drummer Man' scene from 'Young and Innocent' might be on YouTube

Here it is, although part of the scene was included on the 7th portion uploaded.
Neat toon, too!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knRfC4dsuQc&feature=related

May 07, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

the 'Drummer Man' scene from 'Young and Innocent' might be on YouTube

I've just watched the opening of the scene. That's quite a first 56 seconds, and the movie has just shot to the top of my to-rent list. Thanks.

May 08, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

As far as I recall its quite a fun movie, in the mould of 'The Lady Vanishes', though not quite up to that class or 'The 39 Steps'.

The entire movie seems to have been uploaded on YouTube in 8 parts, if you're stuck

May 08, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I recently re-watched "Big Deal on Madonna Street" in eight or ten parts. It was a novel experience watching a movie in bite-size chunks like that.

That ballroom scene has a gimmick or two, but the camera work in the opening is pretty exciting, I think. Thanks.

May 08, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

It would have been better if the person who uploaded had added another minute or so to the beginning of Part 8, but perhaps he was limited in doing so

May 08, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Is something missing at the beginning of Part 8?

May 08, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

Well, I think it pretty much shows the entire crane shot, but I think it misses their arrival at the hotel which is on Part 7 of the upload and is more appropriate to that final section, I think.

btw, theres also a wonderful 'malevolent' bird shot early in the movie which reminded me of 'The Birds'

May 08, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

OK, I'm sold. I'll try to rent the movie before watching it on YouTube.

Incidentally, this is a salutary reminder that one gets what one pays for.

Hmm, then why do newspapers give their content away free online?

May 08, 2010  
Blogger The Chosen One said...

I think whichever newspaper did it first didn't realise what a 'Pandora's Box' it had just opened in an attempt to 'suck in' more readers.
They've been trying to 'put it back in the box', ever since.

As for renting 'Young and Innocent': with the way DVD prices have been plummeting it may be cheaper in the long run to buy a bargain set of Hitchcock British films

May 08, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The way DVD prices are plummeting, and the number of DVD my local video store is putting off her sale, one would think DVDs are going the way of newspapers.

May 08, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

One big surprise from the lot was Erle Stanley Gardner.
I meant to comment earlier,as his 'Cat Woman' is the first, and to date only, one of the stories I've read.
Its fast pace certainly surprised me, as did his pov, given that I'm intermittently watching, and enjoying, Season Two Perry Mason episodes.
But, on this evidence at least, I wouldn't put him in the Hammett or Chandler league.
Perhaps he was tooprolific

May 27, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I don't remember the titls of the Gardner story I read. But I would like to read more, both because I liked the story and to test my guess that he may have been prone to excessive haste.

May 27, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

to test my guess that he may have been prone to excessive haste.
I think we both formed similar first impressions, perhaps prejudiced by being mindful of the biographical note regarding the extent of his prolific nature

May 27, 2010  

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