steranko chandler face gunI came to hardboiled fiction from a few different angles. I grew up reading comic books, so the jump from things like The Shadow and Robert E. Howard comics to pulp fiction to detective stories is practically inevitable. Another thing was Chandler: Red Tide, which was probably the first real hardboiled detective story I ever read. The titular shamus gets his name from Raymond Chandler, who was absent from the readings in the hardboiled class.

He wasn’t entirely missing – some students mentioned him in blog posts and in their Wikipedia articles, and he was the screenwriter for Double Indemnity and Strangers on a Train. I wondered why he wasn’t on the reading list. Was there just no time? When it comes to detective stories, I always thought of Chandler as The Man. But I haven’t read him in a long time.

My other route into hardboiled fiction was through film noir, things like The Big Sleep. The film’s hero, Marlowe, was familiar to me from childhood favorites like Play It Again, Sam and Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. So maybe my opinion of Chandler is colored by things outside of his writing and formed by a younger mind.

While the course was underway, a writer for The Atlantic was grappling with Chandler, and coming up with views that differ from my memory. Then Groom dissected Ellroy’s discussion of Hammett versus Chandler. Hammett is hardboiled, Chandler is Hollywoodboiled. At some point I’ll have to reread Raymond. Probably I will see him differently, but that’s a benefit of going through this process of rereading, re-examination and reflection: deeper knowledge, more connections.

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