Saturday, June 24, 2017

Raymond Chandler: Killer in the Rain

Just finished reading Killer in the Rain by Raymond Chandler. This is a short story but it was given a kind of standalone novella treatment by Modern Classics. You can see the cover below.

As I was reading this one I tried to pay close attention to Chandler's style, to see if could pick up on what makes him such an original and so often imitated. First let me say I really enjoyed the story. It captivated me as I read along. But what were the elements that lead to that captivation?

First, Chandler's writing is very simple and straightforward. There is very little poetry in his prose, unless one considers a certain starkness to be poetical. Second, the work reads like it was written quickly and was not revised very much, although I have no idea if that is actually true. I say that because I found various places where Chandler reused the same word in the same sentence or paragraph. I often do that in first drafts but usually try to change it as I revise. Third, there is almost no description of the natural world other than an occasional visual given of the sky or of rain. There is, however, a fair amount of description of man made objects within the story, such as the drapes or automobiles.

I found these three points interesting because, normally, I would say that I didn't like the way Chandler does them. I love poetical writing. I like polished prose. I love descriptions of nature and dislike descriptions of man-made materials. Chandler worked against all three of my preferences here, but I still enjoyed the read.

One might say, well, "Story is King." But the story here is not that compelling either. Basically, a mobster's girl is stepping out on him and he hires our "shamus" to take care of it. There's a couple of murders and a blackmail scheme, a couple of dames and a lot of whiskey. There's an hysterical woman who has to be slapped out of it. None of these are particularly compelling plot lines, although they certainly would have been much less predictable when this work was originally published.

The upshot of my analysis here is anticlimactic. I don't know why this booklet worked so well for me. Maybe other's have thoughts.


Cloudia said...

You enjoyed inhabiting that atmosphere for a while, Charles :)

Shadow said...

Rioters need to touch a nerve when writing, your senses probably reacted to something? You've intrigued me with this book, I don't think I've read any of his work, a situation I shall be rectifying soon *smiles* Happy Sunday to you Charles

Shadow said...

Rioters??? Writers, it is meant to be. But maybe writers are rioters of the mind?

^.^ said...

... got here via Shadow ... ya ... Love, cat.

Angie said...

I think the story grabbed you. It might not be terribly original, or have incredibly 3D characters, but something about the way Chandler told it obviously did it for you. I agree that the whole smack-the-hysterical-woman thing in so much older fiction (and movies) makes me delete a few points off my assessment, so there are some clear negatives here. But I like a lot of things that have problematic aspects.

There's something there about the story that appeals to you enough that it overcomes the lack of poetical language or polished prose, and the focus on man-made setting details rather than Nature. Plus the woman-smacking. It's most probably story, defined as the whole experience, not just the bare plot or the specific development of the characters. I'm not especially a Chandler fan, but from what I've heard of him, he was a heck of a storyteller. That's probably what's grabbing you.


Charles Gramlich said...

Cloudia, yes indeed

Shadow, a typo of meaning. rioters. I like that.

Cat, thanks for visiting. Much appreciated

Angie, yes, the whole here is definitely more than the sum of its parts.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Charles, I'm glad this story worked for you in spite of your reservations. I have never read Raymond Chandler but I will now.

Annie lewis said...

A great book !! This is a amazing story !!

Charles Gramlich said...

Prashant, I bet you'd like Chandler a lot

Annie, it is.

David Cranmer said...

It's blasphemous to say but I'm tired of Chandler so I can't really comment on his work any more with any amount of non-bias. I do remember, just the same, enjoying this novella very much.

Charles Gramlich said...

David Cranmer, I've only read a couple of others by him, and they have been spread out over time so I've not had enough experience to make any longterm judgment yet.