Turning Phrases with a Deft Touch

Raymond Chandler

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, November 27, 2017, 6:32 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

Raymond Chandler was an extraordinary novelist and screenwriter. I can only imagine how great a sports columnist he would have been.

This man could turn a phrase. They cascade through his prose like waterfalls.

“… she had a blue mink that almost made the Rolls-Royce look like just another automobile. It didn’t quite. Nothing can.”

“Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl’s clothes off.”

“In jail a man has no personality. He is a minor disposal problem and a few entries on reports.”

“Cops are like a doctor that gives you aspirin for a brain tumor, except the cop would rather cure it with a blackjack.”

He was the type of writer who made a reader want to take notes. His pulp fiction was of a high order. He removed the pulp. For years I watched movies of his books and took notes in the recesses of my mind that I wanted to read them. The Big Sleep. The Long Goodbye. I read the former earlier this year. The latter I just finished.

The Big Sleep was the better movie, though it took the novel for me to realize what entirely was going on. The Long Goodbye is the better novel. It took me a long time to read it because I felt the need to absorb it. It’s not hard to read. One tends to go back and retrace a sentence or paragraph just to experience the full effect of the observations made.

Life Gets Complicated, Lightning in a Bottle and Cowboys Come Home are available at Emma Jane’s and L&L Office Supply in uptown Clinton.

Another reason, unfortunately in my case, was that the Kindle edition I purchased was shoddily produced. Whoever provided it must have just run some kind of scanner and never glanced back at what was scanned. If I had a lot more time than I do, I’d have counted all the times “dear” showed up as “clear,” but I never could have kept up with the vice-versas. Pages break after four lines. It’s damned annoying.

The plot is complicated enough without having to be a private investigator, a Philip Marlowe, of the text.

None of this was Chandler’s fault. He died in 1959. He might have kindled romance, but he never owned one.


(Gabe Whisnant photo)

Most of my books — non-fiction on NASCAR and music, collections that include my contributions, seven novels, and one short-story collection — are available here.

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