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.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful: "Pulp Fiction" at its very best, July 1, 2002 Reviewer: Neal Clark Reynolds from E. Taunton, MA United States 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.