“Yet the darkest of Chandler now appears clean-cut. Chandler evoked the spirit of noir through mood-setting and language, not cheap graphic gore. Now work that is hailed as ‘dark’ often seems close to putrid, almost unreadable…”
– Mick Hume, ‘Watching the Detectives’, AIR Magazine, March 2010, p18.
Last Friday marked the 50th anniversary of Raymond Chandler’s death. The passing of the man who wrote detective stories with poetic prose like this, “The night was all around, soft and quiet. The white moonlight was cold and clear, like the justice we dream of but don’t find”, from The High Window (1942).
Today most noir fiction reads like Spillane on crack. Many so-called noir writers are misappropriating noir by depicting violence, including sexual violence, so graphically you wonder who is the real psychopath.
I am reminded of these lines in Chandler’s Playback, where Marlowe narrates: “I picked a paperback off the table and made a pretense of reading it. It was about some private eye whose idea of a hot scene was a dead naked woman hanging from the shower rail with the marks of torture on her… I threw the paperback into the wastebasket, not having a garbage can handy at the moment.”