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Crime Fiction 5

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McGill University
English (Arts)
ENGL 324
Thomas Heise

Jan 18 - see handout re:the simple art of murder - what stands out about Chandler's characterization of Hammett? > he's writing it as if Hammett's dead - he shows that he knows who the famous detective novelists are, so that he can denounce them - he makes his case for the significance of Hammett's work, though he also endeavours to put distance between himself and the former. The Life of Raymond Chandler - Chandler was impressed with Hammett's ability to transform physical observation into something that reveals character - the work must be compelling - Irish parents, born in Chicago, his mother takes him to England, where he is trained in the classics from the age of 12 (early 20th century, things are getting very interesting, and he's being forced to read Ovid and Virgil and Plato and Shakespeare and Milton > absorbing Western tradition) - Chandler, on himself: outer diffidence and inward arrogance, born a half-century too late, he belongs to the age of grace. he could have easily become anything that the world has no use for, he likes things that Americans of past generations used to go and look for in Europe, but he doesn't want to be bound by the rules - he wants things both ways: honorable and traditional as well as unrestrictive - Chandler works as an accountant in the oil industry in Los Angeles - witnesses traumatic combat, and he witnesses the slaughter of the entirety of a platoon he was stationed in in WWI. he was the only survivor - comes back as a decorated war veteran - 40's > drinking, depression, suicidal ideations, marries a woman who's 18 years older than him - fired at 44, gives up drinking and starts writing again - publishes the big sleep at 50 The Big Sleep - Marlowe hired to take care of bisexual porn dealer who's putting the screws on Carmen - Marlowe suspects instead that the general wants to track down Rusty Reagan, who mysteriously disappeared (apparently in the company of the wife of a racketeer) - Geiger's killed, Carmen is naked and drugged, then Geiger's murderer is hunted down - begins with a blackmail ring and progresses to a high end porn ring - really a story about family - he's hired to do one thing, but the case proliferates. once again, the web-like tentacles reach out, and he's enmeshed in the underworld of Los Angeles - same sort of thing as Red Harvest - plot is used to make a social commentary, and it doesn't particularly seem to matter - Chandler: a plot is an organic thing - it grows and sometimes overgrows. he ends up with scenes that want to stick around, and he has to make them fit in - he doesn't like being committed in advance - different from James Elroy (Black Dahlia and L.A Confidential), who plots out everything that's going to happen down to the most minute detail - Chandler thought of plots as an excuse to pass along his message - Fredric Jameson: the event of murder ser
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