The High Window
has plenty of good stuff in it, but I know of no one who considers it among Raymond Chandler's best work. I'm part of that consensus, and here are some of the reasons, based on a recent rereading:
1) Chandler's inspiration flags. In Chapter Four, needing to give Philip Marlowe and the reader information about the case at hand, Chandler has Marlowe call a friend who happens conveniently to be "a crime reporter on the Chronicle," a hard-boiled convention probably five to ten years out of date by the time The High Window appeared in 1942. The information is forthcoming, Marlowe and the crime reporter friend duly exchange mildly salacious wisecracks, and the reporter disappears, never to return. The reporter's name suggests that Chandler was well aware of the scene's perfunctory nature: Kenny Haste.
© Peter Rozovsky 2015
2) The word nothing occurs 73 times in the novel, sometimes like a self-mocking drumbeat: "Nothing in that, Marlowe," Marlowe tells himself, "nothing at all. Nothing for you here, nothing." Chandler would engage in morbid crankiness in The Little Sister in 1949. Something similar may be at work in The High Window.
3) On a possibly related note, I detected what I would bet was the inspiration for Ross Macdonald's cringe-inducing pathetic fallacies in The Galton Case. In Macdonald, "Flowers bloomed competitively in the yards." In The High Window, "a small tiled pool glitter(ed) angrily in the sun." Is it fair to blame Chandler's mild excess for Macdonald's more serious sin? Maybe Chandler could be indicted as an accessory before the fact.
Labels: Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, The High Window, The Little Sister