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Unlike some hard-boiled writers, Chandler took time to take note of the world and all its lush details.” Consider Marlowe on Vivian Regan in The Big Sleep: “Her black hair was glossy under a Robin Hood hat that might have cost 50 dollars and looked as if you could have made it with one hand out of a desk blotter.” Reading that conjures up a vision not only of the hat but of the sort of milieu in which women wore them.
It must be admitted that this eye for detail often failed him when he came to construct plots.
But although pulp writers needed to churn out something like a million words a year to earn a living, Chandler spent five months crafting his first story.
But by 1945 cheap reprints of his books were selling in their hundreds of thousands, and the critics who had hitherto ignored him were vying to outdo each other with superlatives.
When Howard Hawks, filming The Big Sleep, asked Chandler to clarify who was responsible for the death of the chauffeur Owen Taylor, the author couldn’t tell him.
The detective-story writer John Dickson Carr felt that if he had bothered with the “fatigue of construction and clues” he might have written better books, but in his essay The Simple Art of Murder Chandler pours scorn on those crime writers whose primary aim was to construct puzzles, not so much writing as “assembling an eggbeater”. A Milne’s feather-light Red House Mystery is like watching Moose Malloy set on the old lady in Farewell, My Lovely, a real brains-on-the-bedpost job.
He planned to sneak into his stories a quality which readers “would not shy off from, perhaps not even know was there …
but which would somehow distil through their minds and leave an afterglow”.Most of these magazines hooked their readers with a mixture of sex and violence – “they have juxtaposed the steely automatic and the frilly panty and found that it pays off”, wrote SJ Perelman.