Somewhere between discovering The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Hellblazer, I fell deeply into love with early-to-mid 20th-century detective fiction. It was a world of smart men who mean well, knife-sharp banter, romance, the end of ropes and of, so much violence. I loved Dashiell Hammett, Jim Thompson, and Patricia Highsmith. But the writer that kept me up late at night, without fail, has always been Raymond Chandler.
Chandler had a knack for getting his hooks into his readers, from the get-go of page one. Through hard work, talent and, no small amount of booze, he managed to find the perfect balance of descriptive prose, heartache, and humor. I'm certainly not the only reader out there to feel this way about Chandler's work. A while back, I happened upon an outstanding, ordered list of Chandler's best opening hooks, compiled by Dwyer Murphy, over at Crime Reads. My all-time favorite? This chunk of Chandler's Red Wind (which originally appeared in the Saturday Evening Post before being collected into a book of short stories with the same name).
From Red Wind:
There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.
If you're a fan of crime fiction hungry to savor the work of a master in bite-sized installments, or someone who's looking for their next pandemic/summer read, Murphy's list is a great place to get a taste of what Chandler has in store for you. You'll find it and the rest of what Crime Reads has to offer, here.
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