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Friday, February 9, 2018

Killer in the Rain by Raymond Chandler: A review by Warren Bull

Killer in the Rain by Raymond Chandler: A review by Warren Bull

image from pixabay

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.


Kait said...

Wow, what a vivid description, I can feel the humidity. Going to have to look up the nameless protagonist story. Interesting concept.

KM Rockwood said...

This shows us one of the reasons Chandler is such a classic!

I often view short stories as "sketches" for other works, the way an artist may, for instance, draw a bridge planned for a bigger piece in various lights & from various angles. It helps give a feel for characters, settings and scenes.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Love the hot house description!

I create new characters in a short story and may bring them back in a future work.

Grace Topping said...

Warren, I've followed so many of your recommendations that I guess a Chandler book will be one of my next books. Thanks for the recommendations.

Gloria Alden said...

Warren, I have to put that book on my list to read, too.

Lori L. Robinett said...

Intriguing review. Several of my novels began as nuggets in short stories. So interesting to see the way Chandler's seeds turned into more. Thanks!