9 February 2012 2 Comments

Why did Marlowe go in the bar?

Mrs. Rees has given me two lovely kids. She has enjoyed the presence of my parents. She even visited Wales with me. But I was never quite sure of her. Because she had only read one Raymond Chandler novel. In an effort to make our marriage complete, I suggested this week she augment her reading […]

18 January 2012 0 Comments

Podcast: Crime Fiction Openings

As an award-winning crime writer, I’ve studied the greats of the genre and lectured about how they do what they do. Here I take my three favorite openings to crime novels — “Red Harvest” by Dashiell Hammett, “The Little Sister” by Raymond Chandler, and “The Saint-Fiacre Affair” by Georges Simenon — and examine what makes […]

22 December 2011 2 Comments

The Best First Paragraphs in Crime Fiction: Part 2

I’m writing this in a plain office in the corner of a building that was described by the realtor as “exclusive,” though it doesn’t exclude despondent ultra-Orthodox Jews panhandling for cash, plumbers who break all the pipes you hadn’t called them to fix, or the cheerful lady who lets her dog pee in the elevator. […]

1 December 2011 0 Comments

Re-reading Ray

I happened to read a few crappy books in a row of late. So I did what I always do when I can’t afford for the next book I get into to disappoint: I re-read a Raymond Chandler. I picked “The Long Goodbye” off the shelf, because it’s my favorite. From the very first page, […]

23 June 2011 2 Comments

Unpolished Fleming, Paranoid Mankell

I’ve seen two things in the last week that allowed me to compare something of the way crime writers used to appear in public and their present avatars. It only made me wish for the good old days even more than I used to. The comparison is between: a delightful radio chat on the BBC […]

24 February 2011 10 Comments

For Arabs: democracy, then crime fiction

Crime fiction may not be the first thing on the minds of the protesters taking to the streets for democracy across the Arab world. But one of the offshoots of the downfall of Arab dictators is sure to be an explosion of thrillers and mysteries. Until now there has been almost no crime fiction written […]

16 December 2010 0 Comments

‘Go **** yourself,” and plotting a novel

Raymond Chandler once described an activity (not important what) as being “as elaborate a waste of human intelligence as you can find outside an advertising agency.” I have happened upon a dark corporate art still more wasteful and, being a writer, I see how it’s related to the plotting of a novel. I’ve had a […]

16 September 2010 2 Comments

Writers, no email until lunch

Raymond Chandler wrote that a writer shouldn’t read letters until lunchtime. The energy that ought to go into his novel would be diverted to correspondence. If email had been invented 50 years earlier, we might never have had “The Big Sleep.” Email has an itching urgency that letters don’t have. And a letter leads only […]

9 September 2010 2 Comments

Overturning detective fiction: everyone’s guilty in my novels

The “Golden Age” of the detective story was the 1920s and 1930s. It was a turbulent period. In Britain, the General Strike. In the U.S., the Depression. Civil war in Spain, and in Germany the rise of the Nazis. Red scares everywhere, fascists too. But the detective story was a solace to those who lived […]

31 August 2010 3 Comments

Going historical

Writing of the disdain expressed for genre novels by critics, Raymond Chandler said that there were just as many bad “literary novels” of the type favored by critics as there were bad genre stories – except that the bad literary novels didn’t get published. In other words, there’s nothing inherent in so-called genre fiction that […]