Monday, April 25, 2016

"The High Window" by Raymond Chandler

The first year after I had graduated college, I got a two-volume collection of Raymond Chandler's complete works out of the library and inhaled them.  It was a wonderful couple of weeks.  I'd read The Big Sleep back in high school, and The Lady in the Lake one summer between college years, so I knew I liked his writing style.  But it wasn't until that post-college binge that I realized I'd found my favorite author.

The only trouble was, I read all his novels and short stories in a row, and all the plots kind of smooshed together.  The only one I can reliably tell you a decent amount about is still The Big Sleep, because I've read it probably 3 times, and watched the Bogart & Bacall movie a lot.  So this re-read of The High Window was almost like reading a brand-new-to-me book.  I really didn't remember anything about the plot, which made it extra enjoyable.

Basically, Philip Marlowe gets hired to find a rich old woman's daughter-in-law, who has disappeared along with a valuable old coin.  In the process, he runs into murder, blackmail, and emotional manipulation -- the case goes deep and dark before it's through.

One thing that surprised me was how relatively clean this was.  I always think of Chandler as dealing with dark, dirty crimes, but while a few sordid things were implied here and there, they were glossed over pretty gently.  If you'd like to try out one of his novels to see what his writing style is like, but don't want to get sucked into society's underbelly, I recommend trying this one.

I'm not listing any favorite lines because I had so many it would be like reprinting half the book.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for violence, language, and innuendo.  

This is my 37th book read and reviewed for The Classics Club!


  1. Chandler is just amazing. This has one my my all-time favourite lines from him, in what I've read so far:

    "From 30 feet away she looked like a lot of class. From 10 feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from 30 feet away."

    He can be so effortlessly hilarious sometimes.

    A year or two ago I picked up a collection of non-fiction and letters he wrote, The Raymond Chandler Papers. Have you read that yet? I haven't gotten to it yet, but I'm interested to see how I like him in his non-fiction.

    1. Rob, yes! That was such a good line. He makes me chortle with glee over some of his most delightful spots.

      I haven't read The Raymond Chandler Papers, but I've read his essay "The Simple Art of Murder," which is wonderful. I'll add TRCP to my wish list!

  2. Chandler? Really? Are we still on Chandler? Sorry, couldn't resist. I always reading someone who is passionate about one of their favorite authors...even if it isn't one of mine. I do appreciate how Chandler deals with pretty lurid subjects without getting R rated (or worse).

    1. Well, Joseph, it's like this: whenever I add a book review to the Classics Club list, I like to see what other CC members have read by that author, and if they've reviewed that same book, I got read their reviews. Sometimes I find delightful new-to-me blogs this way, and sometimes I just read posts that people I already "know" wrote before we "met." So I posted this to the CC, went to see what other people had read by Chandler, and discovered that there are only a handful of reviews listed and they're ALL for The Big Sleep. Read them all, commented on a couple (yours and Rob's in particular), and here we are.

      A huge part of the reason I love Chandler is because I'm a writer -- it wasn't until after I'd written a goodly amount of fiction myself, and spent about ten years studying the art of writing, that I truly started to appreciate him. Because writing fresh, vivid, startling, funny, sharp descriptions and dialog like he does is HARD, and I know that now, so I appreciate how well he does it. Same goes for Hemingway's clarity, and Fitzgerald's elegance. These three writers I admire first and foremost for the way they write. But unlike Hemingway and Fitzgerald, whose stories and characters tend to leave me cold and tired, I truly enjoy Chandler's stories and want to befriend his characters, so I love him bestest.

  3. Yeah, I knew why you commented on my Chandler review. I do the same thing...checking the Classics Club after I finish a book so check out other reviews. Anyway, I've got Farewell My Lovely sitting around here somewhere. One of these days I'll get to it, and I wouldn't be surprised if your advocacy for Chandler does not improve my opinion with another read.

    1. Oh! I'm glad I'm not the only one who does that.

      It's been a long time since I read Farewell, My Lovely. I hope you like him better when you read that one! I'm thinking of diving into another soon myself.


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