Chandler on Cain: “Proust in greasy overalls”

Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler wrote his publisher Alfred Knopf in February 1943:

I hope the day will come when I don’t have to ride around on Hammett and James Cain, like an organ grinder’s monkey. Hammett is all right. I give him everything. There were a lot of things he could not do, but what he did he did superbly. But James Cain—faugh! Everything he touches smells like a billygoat. He is every kind of writer I detest, a faux naif, a Proust in greasy overalls, a dirty little boy with a piece of chalk and a board fence and nobody looking. Such people are the offal of literature, not because they write about dirty things but because they do it in a dirty way.

– Frank MacShane, The Life of Raymond Chandler, 1978, p101)

4 thoughts on “Chandler on Cain: “Proust in greasy overalls””

  1. Hi! Tony,
    I read this short piece yesterday and all I can say is…
    Wow…What a story and what a comment by Raymond Chandler I wish that I could share this article on my book blog (Because I ‘am featuring his book The Big Sleep on my bookstore widget) on my blog and link back to you…wishful thinking right?!?…Upon laying eyes on author Raymond Chandler, for the first time I always thought looked like a sourpuss and unfortunately, this comment almost confirmed my suspicion about author Raymond Chandler.

    Director Alfred Hitchcock, even parted company with him while filming the 1951 film Strangers on a Train. Due, to the fact, that he insulted Hitchcock, by referring to his weight in a negative manner. (Which as all Hitchcock’s fan know was most definitely, a no, no… Unless of course, you wanted to incur Alfred Hitchcock’s wrath.)

    By the way, I will place this book on my book blog shelf too– Frank MacShane, The Life of Raymond Chandler, 1978.

    Thanks, for sharing!


  2. Those are pretty damning disclaimers there from Chandler, dismissing the man who wrote DOUBLE INDEMNITY, THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE and MILDRED PIERCE. Chandler cries foul here, but I wonder if he were alive today he’d stand by his uncompromising position. Cain obviously favors deceit and treachery – that’s clear enough – but there’s nothing dubious about his presentation. But Chandler is the top guy, I won’t deny that.


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