Killer in the Rain by Raymond Chandler: A review by Warren Bull
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This collection of eight stories includes the ones Chandler called “cannibalized” becaused he used
parts of them in his novels. The used parts vary from single scenes to long passages. He often took
from more than one short story in one novel. It’s fun to see how characters and elements are changed
in the novels. Some are extensions help clarify what it is only hinted at in the stories.
The short stories stand very well on their own even though the PI has not yet evolved into Phillip
Marlowe. The protagonist is nameless in the first story. In later stories he is Carmady, John Dalmas
and John Evans. By whatever name, the hero’s mission is to protect the weak and innocent. He makes
sure justice is done one way or another. He is brave and he is more interested in cleaning up messes
than in making money.
There is action. So much action in so few words it sometimes leaves the plots in second place. But
they are well worth reading.
Chandler has a memorable way with analogies and descriptions.
Here is an example, in the short story Curtains: “The air steamed. The walls and ceiling of the glass
house dripped. In the halflight enormous tropical plants spread their blooms and branches all over the
place, and the smell of them was almost as overpowering as the smell of boiling alcohol.”
Here is the same scene adapted for The Big Sleep: The air was thick, wet, steamy and larded with the
cloying smell of tropical orchards in bloom. The glass walls and roof were heavily misted with big
drops of moisture splashed down on the plants. The light had an unreal greenish colour, like light
filtered through an aquarium tank. The plants filled the place, a forest if them, with nasty, meaty
leaves and stalks like the newly washed fingers of dead men. They smelled as overpowering as
boiling alcohol under a blanket.”
Although longer, the writing is more intense with not one extra word.
It is clear why Chandler holds a unique place in mystery writing. I recommend the book very highly.