Transatlantic crime

Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep (1946)
 I've just finished reading two contrasting crime novels, although one is at least a little influenced by the other : Raymond Chandler's classic Farewell, My Lovely and the second installment of Ian Rankin's Rebus mysteries Hide And Seek.

I only recently started to read Ian Rankin, and enjoyed the first book in the series Knots And Crosses as I revealed when I blogged about it. Although on reflection it didn't make a major impression on me. I liked Hide and Seek more than Knots & crosses, although again I do feel that a couple of weeks down the line I won't remember much about it. But it's a fun read for any afficionados of crime fiction. Rankin lays some great herrings across the trail. Again it's a novel about power and the corruption of power set against a gritty background, which owes at least a little to Raymond Chandler. It moves at a fast pace, and is a clever, if slightly predictable plot - one of the red herrings is extremely obvious!

For me personally there is a connection between Rankin and Raymond Chandler. In both cases they're writers that I know are admired and who are  right at the top of the crime writers pantheon, and with both of them I found this rather off-putting, and so put-off reading them. So you won't be surprised to hear that Farewell, my lovely is the first Raymond Chandler I've ever read. I came to this book with a huge weight of expectation - I've read Dashiell Hammett and enjoy him, I know that Chandler is hugely influential, and I love film noir including several films that were scripted by Chandler himself. So, quite frankly, I was expecting this book to be wonderful. And....I'm sorry to say I was disappointed.

Don't get me wrong - it's a good book. His prose can sometimes be brilliant, he's great at setting up location, and there are some lovely character touches. But I found the basic plot confusing, and the brilliance of his descriptive prose sometimes overwhelms the novel - I just wanted him to get on with it. I think that's why when I see Chandler on film I love him, because he's not overwhelming me with description, by definition that's present in the film, but on the page, I found it irritating. And I'm so disappointed, I soooo wanted to love Philip Marlowe in the way that I love Sam Spade, and I just couldn't. I feel as though I've opened a Christmas present thinking it was what I really wanted only to find that it was that present that I really didn't want and that I had thought that my Mum would realise I didn't want. Oh dear...


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