As part of my NaNoWriMo prep, I’ve been reading Raymond Chandler’s essay, “The Simple Art of Murder,” from 1950. In it, the author condemns traditional detective stories, as he argues they can never be realistic enough nor rise to the level of great literature.
He then proposes the type of detective story that can elude such problems, noting “in everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption.”
Chandler also proposes the type of detective that can make such a story work:
… [D]own these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. […] He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.
I love this description, and look forward to getting back to my own detective story with this in mind. My goal, in fact, is to write the female equivalent – or better. Is it possible?
The Case of the Cunning Linguist certainly aims to find out.
Here’s one final thought from Chandler on the detective story:
It is not funny that a man should be killed, but it is sometimes funny that he should be killed for so little, and that his death should be the coin of what we call civilization.
See you November 1 for some more notes on what I’m writing – and reading – this month.