Chandler is arguably the best detective story writer out there. If you expand this genre to all mystery writers, he would still be one of the best.
Detective stories aren't as common as they once were, but if you look at the offspring of the Pulp magazine once so popular, television, they are still as popular as ever. Chandler was one author who defined what a detective story was. This book contains four novels:The Lady in the Lake, The Little Sister, The Long Goodbye, and Playback. These are wonderfully entertaining stories that contain the archetypical hard-bitten detective, Philip Marlowe. After reading these stories you will forever see Marlowe in every detective story you see or read, from Magnum to the latest TV cop. How can you not love an author who sums up Modern American Capitalism with lines like these? "We make the finest packages in the world, Mr. Marlowe. The stuff inside is mostly junk." Or an author who in the early 50's, (50 years before the current 'Queers Dress Up' shows) so presciently wrote, "The queer is the artistic arbiter of our age, chum." Or his comment on a speech by a politician, "He did not bore us with any facts."
These books are not just riveting, fun reading, but full of thoughtful quotes like the above.
Chandler also is must-reading for his understanding of criminality, venality, human nature, Southern California, Movies, American culture and American relationship dynamics. I hate to use the word "classic" to describe stories that are just so plain fun to read, but I find it hard not to.
This volume also contains a screenplay, Double Indemnity, and a few essays and letters. The essays "The Simple Art of Murder", and "Writers in Hollywood" should be required reading for anyone interested in 20th century culture, movies, and literature. Just a few tidbits more. Chandler on English Mystery Writers - "The English may not always be the best writers in the world, but they are incomparably the best dull writers." Chandler on boredom - "There are no dull subjects, only dull minds." Chandler on critics - "The average critic never recognizes an achievement when it happens. He explains it after it has become respectable."
My only criticism is that the plots are contrived and sometimes complicated. But such criticism is like complaining that the Mona Lisa would be a fine painting if only it were of a different size.
Chandler is simply wonderful, funny, cynical, and yes, - respectable.