Raymond Chandler •
The Long Goodbye •
In 1977 I was sitting on the tatami floor of my room in Tokyo rereading The High Window, when I came across the line “She had eyes like strange sins.” And I forgot I was homesick, and drinking too much, and gaining weight—forgot everything except that those words made me tingle all over, and I had to tell somebody about it.
So I’m telling you. Chandler will do that to you—captivate you with his turns of phrase in the middle of a detective story. He’s not just a superb mystery writer, he’s one of the best writers ever in any genre. His books are full of lines that take your breath away; his imagery will stay in your mind for 30 years.
Occasionally his plots get a little too convoluted for their own good—there are so many nefarious characters engaged in so many shady doings that they keep bumping into each other at corners, like the old Spy vs. Spy cartoon figures in Mad magazine—but it doesn’t matter. His prose sweeps you along with its grace and power and freshness, and you wind up reading everything he wrote over and over again. It doesn’t really matter where you start, though I give a slight edge to The Long Goodbye.
Chandler himself was educated in London, refined, erudite, and, of all things, shy. But his soul was inhabited by a smart-mouth cynical private eye who eats in greasy diners and growls at the only woman he ever falls for hard.
And his books just sing.