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The Simple Art of Murder [Paperback]

Raymond Chandler
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 12 1988 Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
Prefaced by the famous Atlantic Monthly essay of the same name, in which he argues the virtues of the hard-boiled detective novel, this collection mostly drawn from stories he wrote for the pulps demonstrates Chandler's imaginative, entertaining facility with the form.

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Product Description

From Library Journal

Chandler is not only the best writer of hardboiled PI stories, he's one of the 20th century's top scribes, period. His full canon of novels and short stories is reprinted in trade paper featuring uniform covers in Black Lizard's signature style. A handsome set for a reasonable price.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"Raymond Chandler is a master." --The New York Times

“[Chandler] wrote as if pain hurt and life mattered.” --The New Yorker

“Chandler seems to have created the culminating American hero: wised up, hopeful, thoughtful, adventurous, sentimental, cynical and rebellious.” --Robert B. Parker, The New York Times Book Review

“Philip Marlowe remains the quintessential urban private eye.” --Los Angeles Times

“Nobody can write like Chandler on his home turf, not even Faulkner. . . . An original. . . . A great artist.” —The Boston Book Review

“Raymond Chandler was one of the finest prose writers of the twentieth century. . . . Age does not wither Chandler’s prose. . . . He wrote like an angel.” --Literary Review

“[T]he prose rises to heights of unselfconscious eloquence, and we realize with a jolt of excitement that we are in the presence of not a mere action tale teller, but a stylist, a writer with a vision.” --Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Review of Books

“Chandler wrote like a slumming angel and invested the sun-blinded streets of Los Angeles with a romantic presence.” —Ross Macdonald

“Raymond Chandler is a star of the first magnitude.” --Erle Stanley Gardner

“Raymond Chandler invented a new way of talking about America, and America has never looked the same to us since.” --Paul Auster

“[Chandler]’s the perfect novelist for our times. He takes us into a different world, a world that’s like ours, but isn’t. ” --Carolyn See


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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars "Pulp Fiction" at its very best July 1 2002
Format:Paperback
Those years of the 30's gave us the incredible "pulp" magazines of several genres, basically adventure, western, science fiction, mystery and detective. The detective pulps such as "Black Mask" and "Dime Detective" were training grounds for the like of Erle Stanley Gardner, Dashell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler.
This volume gives us Raymond Chandler's essay of the detective genre plus twelve novellas and short stories basically from the pulp magazines.
Four of these are Phillip Marlowe adventures, all written before the novels. Of these, "Goldfish" and "Trouble is My Business" truly stand out. However, there are three others: "Smart-Aleck Kill" with Johnny Dalmas, the notable "Guns at Cyrano's" with Ted Carmady, and "The King in Yellow" featuring hotel detective turned private eye Steve Grayce. Each of these three stories feature a very obvious antecedent to Phillip Marlowe.
Raymond Chandler is noted especially for his concise but rich descriptions of locale and also of characters. These are practically photographic descriptions. Also, there's Chandler's dialogue complete with sardonic humor and wisecracks. The plot is swift paced with nary a dull moment. He was well trained by BLACK MASK's editor who suggested that whenever the plot threatens to bog down, have a man with a gun in his hand walk into the scene.
Dashell Hammett and Raymond Chandler shaped the tough private eye genre which spawned Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer, Richard Prather's Shell Scott, Robert Parker's Spenser, and also today's police detective genre, most notably Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch.
Chandler termed this genre, as opposed to the more genteel Agatha Christy type of mystery, "realistic". Well, that's arguable.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
4.0 out of 5 stars Art made to look simple Nov. 12 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
The essay which gives this collection its title is the apotheosis of Chandler - the absolute distillation of the meaning of "Chandleresque" (or for that matter "Hammett-ness"). Here Chandler steps back from the creation of Noir fiction and, in a sometimes bitter or shrp way, comes down hard on the Hams and Part-timers of a literary form he believed to be worthy of elevation from the term genre.
Chandler chose to use the conventions of the Crime Novella format to his own - rather than any readership or editors - ends. Less monothematic than the given Short Story format, pre-flavoured with the expectations of the Crime buyer, the Novella and its narrow context of the stark contrasts of the Urban existence allow Chandler to define a notion of modern man and the modern morality of the individual in a socially dislocated environment - years before Welles and decades ahead of the Quention Tarantino's who currently tease us with the same issues and questions.
In "The Simple Art of Murder" the short stories and mini-novellas are sharp and compelling; in the title-giving essay, Chandler sits back and confesses to what compels him to write so. To paraphrase the author himself (speaking of Hammett for whom he had a great admiration), he took the art of murder from the counttry vicarage and "gave it back to the people on the street, to whom it really belonged anyway". Marlowe is silhouetted by his creator in his concluding idea of why a man such as him will always exist, why his morality must exist .. "down these mean streets a man must go, a man who is neither tarnished nor afraid...".
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Raymond Chander fans who associate the author's name only with that of his famous creation, Phillip Marlowe, will enjoy "The Simple Art Of Murder," a collection of Chandler stories originally published in everything from "Dime Detective" magazine to "The Saturday Evening Post."
These stories, in which Marlowe as we know him is nowhere to be found, trace the evolution of Chandler's distinctive style and find him experimenting with various characters and points of view. Several stories feature third-person narration, contrary to the Marlowe novels' first-person perspective, and many stories feature protagonists who are obviously Marlowe prototypes. Naturally, all of the tales feature Chandler's poetic dialogue, remarkable descriptions, and enjoyably tangled plots.
Highlights of the collection include "The Simple Art of Murder," an essay by the author on the nature of mystery-writing, and the haunting "I'll Be Waiting," in which a lonely hotel detective tries to help a beautiful guest and ends up paying a dearer price than he could ever have imagined. My personal favorite among the stories is the surprisingly funny "Pearls Are A Nuisance," which proves that Chandler really did have a sense of humor.
Anyone looking for a fresh perspective on one of mystery's best writers should pick up "The Simple Art Of Murder."
Was this review helpful to you?
4.0 out of 5 stars worth it for the essay alone March 6 2005
Format:Paperback
The stories are very good, although not as good as Chandler's more polished novels. Nevertheless, it's interesting to see the germs of some of his later ideas as they first appeared in short story form in magazines like Black Mask. The opening essay, entitled "The Simple Art of Murder," alone makes the collection worth it for its insight into the development of detective fiction, and the hard-boiled variety in particular. Chandler regarded the detective story as serious literature, and his essay no doubt influenced many critics to do the same. He remains one of the best detective story writers of all time - and a damn fine writer for any genre.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  32 reviews
47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Read It Until the Book Fell Apart Jan. 30 2006
By J. Robinson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I am commenting on the present book not the older 1968 version. Some other people are commenting on the old book.

Before you read all the other comments here, please be clear that this book is not like Chandler's other books. Unfortunately, some other people commenting on this book have not read the book - obviously. This book does not contain his character Philip Marlowe. He might have been in the 1968 version, I do not know. Here we have an essay by Chandler called "The Simple Art of Murder," followed by 8 short stories, each about 40 pages long. In some ways, these are a sampling of Chandler's "other stories." They still involve an LA based private detective, but each leading male protagonist has a different personality.

The great attraction of this book is the essay by Chandler on how he writes, and what he thinks of other writers. After reading the esssay, I immediately ran out and bought Hemingway's "Farewell to Arms." Chandler thought that this book probably has the best prose of 20th century novels. In the essay Chandler tells us about his philosophy to writing crime stories, and he makes comments on other writers from Hemingway to British mystery writer Dorothy Sayers. It is a good essay by Chandler but short.

I have read all 7 Chandler novels plus the short stories "Trouble is My Business." One can make the argument that the present book is perhaps his best work; although, the short story format does not make for an impressive read - as we see for example in "Farewell, My Lovely," or other full novels.

As a Chandler fan I read this introduction four times, and read most other stories twice. "Smart-Aleck Kill" has a very complicated plot compressed into a very short format. I ended up reading it three times before all the characters were clear in my mind. Eventually the binding of this new book came apart. There is no Philip Marlowe, but this is an excellent sample of Chandler's writing skills.

Chandler wrote detective mystery stories, and became famous for seven novels and a number of Hollywood screen plays, mostly about crime and private detectives in the "film noir" genre of Hollywood black and white films, or what is called LA "pulp fiction". Far from being an ordinary writer of cheap crime stories, Chandler became one of America's best writers from the mid 20th century. His fame was of course helped by Bogat and Bacall starring in the film "The Big Sleep" based on Chandler's first novel.

In any case, this is a book that is not to be missed by Chandler fans. It is simply excellent for anyone else.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short stories from the creator of Phillip Marlowe. Dec 2 1996
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Raymond Chander fans who associate the author's name only with that of his famous creation, Phillip Marlowe, will enjoy "The Simple Art Of Murder," a collection of Chandler stories originally published in everything from "Dime Detective" magazine to "The Saturday Evening Post."
These stories, in which Marlowe as we know him is nowhere to be found, trace the evolution of Chandler's distinctive style and find him experimenting with various characters and points of view. Several stories feature third-person narration, contrary to the Marlowe novels' first-person perspective, and many stories feature protagonists who are obviously Marlowe prototypes. Naturally, all of the tales feature Chandler's poetic dialogue, remarkable descriptions, and enjoyably tangled plots.
Highlights of the collection include "The Simple Art of Murder," an essay by the author on the nature of mystery-writing, and the haunting "I'll Be Waiting," in which a lonely hotel detective tries to help a beautiful guest and ends up paying a dearer price than he could ever have imagined. My personal favorite among the stories is the surprisingly funny "Pearls Are A Nuisance," which proves that Chandler really did have a sense of humor.
Anyone looking for a fresh perspective on one of mystery's best writers should pick up "The Simple Art Of Murder."
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Art made to look simple Nov. 12 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The essay which gives this collection its title is the apotheosis of Chandler - the absolute distillation of the meaning of "Chandleresque" (or for that matter "Hammett-ness"). Here Chandler steps back from the creation of Noir fiction and, in a sometimes bitter or shrp way, comes down hard on the Hams and Part-timers of a literary form he believed to be worthy of elevation from the term genre.
Chandler chose to use the conventions of the Crime Novella format to his own - rather than any readership or editors - ends. Less monothematic than the given Short Story format, pre-flavoured with the expectations of the Crime buyer, the Novella and its narrow context of the stark contrasts of the Urban existence allow Chandler to define a notion of modern man and the modern morality of the individual in a socially dislocated environment - years before Welles and decades ahead of the Quention Tarantino's who currently tease us with the same issues and questions.
In "The Simple Art of Murder" the short stories and mini-novellas are sharp and compelling; in the title-giving essay, Chandler sits back and confesses to what compels him to write so. To paraphrase the author himself (speaking of Hammett for whom he had a great admiration), he took the art of murder from the counttry vicarage and "gave it back to the people on the street, to whom it really belonged anyway". Marlowe is silhouetted by his creator in his concluding idea of why a man such as him will always exist, why his morality must exist .. "down these mean streets a man must go, a man who is neither tarnished nor afraid...". Written with so much conviction that his argument stands up like a spoon in it, for this essay alone - and the future years of musing on and quoting whole tracts that will instantly lodge in your memory for ever - no-one interested in what underlies the fascination of "noir" should go down a dark alley at night without it.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Pulp Fiction" at its very best July 1 2002
By Neal Reynolds - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Those years of the 30's gave us the incredible "pulp" magazines of several genres, basically adventure, western, science fiction, mystery and detective. The detective pulps such as "Black Mask" and "Dime Detective" were training grounds for the like of Erle Stanley Gardner, Dashell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler.
This volume gives us Raymond Chandler's essay of the detective genre plus twelve novellas and short stories basically from the pulp magazines.
Four of these are Phillip Marlowe adventures, all written before the novels. Of these, "Goldfish" and "Trouble is My Business" truly stand out. However, there are three others: "Smart-Aleck Kill" with Johnny Dalmas, the notable "Guns at Cyrano's" with Ted Carmady, and "The King in Yellow" featuring hotel detective turned private eye Steve Grayce. Each of these three stories feature a very obvious antecedent to Phillip Marlowe.
Raymond Chandler is noted especially for his concise but rich descriptions of locale and also of characters. These are practically photographic descriptions. Also, there's Chandler's dialogue complete with sardonic humor and wisecracks. The plot is swift paced with nary a dull moment. He was well trained by BLACK MASK's editor who suggested that whenever the plot threatens to bog down, have a man with a gun in his hand walk into the scene.
Dashell Hammett and Raymond Chandler shaped the tough private eye genre which spawned Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer, Richard Prather's Shell Scott, Robert Parker's Spenser, and also today's police detective genre, most notably Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch.
Chandler termed this genre, as opposed to the more genteel Agatha Christy type of mystery, "realistic". Well, that's arguable. I don't know about you, but I don't ordinarily find dead bodies whenever I walk into an empty room, nor are the people who knock on my door likely to have guns in their hands, or even on their persons, so I question the "realistic" label. But these stories are good fun. The body count is rather high in most of the stories, and you can often figure out who the murderer is by eliminating the characters who get killed along the way.
Be that as it may, this volume is indeed highly recommended.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can't beat Raymond Chandler Nov. 12 2006
By Todd V. Leone - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The thing about Raymond Chandler is his ability to put words together in the most intriguing, descriptive way. His prose is beyond readable -- it's captivating. The first book of his I read was "Farewell, My Lovely." I read a couple of paragraphs and I was simply hooked. The stories themselves are wonderful, but told by a lesser author, they wouldn't be half as good.

The sad thing about Chandler is that he got started rather late in life with his writing and he didn't get that many books written before he died. Today, you can find about eight books, comprising six novels and two collections of short stories. "The Simple Art of Murder" is one of the short story collections.

Chandler's famous fictional detective, Philip Marlowe does not appear in any of the short stories in this book because these are his earlier works. They appeared in magazines and he hadn't dreamt up Marlowe yet. But the stories are so worth reading. One of Chandler's gifts is his ability to describe people, places and the times without being at all boring. The net result is that, while you're reading, you're there, back in the Los Angeles of the 1930's and 40's, experiencing how it used to look, how it once felt, what life there was once like. It's almost intoxicating in its effects.

Those who have read some of the Philip Marlowe novels will find a couple of interesting things. With a little re-working, you'll find a couple of his short stories in the novels as chapters of the larger works.

One of the really interesting things about this particular collection is the opening work, not a story but an essay entitled "The Simple Art of Murder." It's Raymond Chandler's commentary on what it takes to write a good murder mystery and, believe it or not, it's a very interesting read. It's entertaining and insightful, not in the least bit dry, and proof positive that Chandler could really write. The man was truly gifted and not to read him is to missing something excellent indeed.

The phrase "pulp fiction" generally conveys something of lesser quality, trash, in fact. I'll never make that assumption again having read Raymond Chandler, master of the genre. Few authors in any genre have been able to write as well as he did.
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