|James M. Fox|
He has always published John Dickson Carr whom I find as unreadable as Mickey Spillane. although for different readers. [Carr and Chandler feuded around four years earlier when Carr, having taken umbrage at Chandler's withering attack on classic English mystery in his essay, had panned Chandler's Simple Art of Murder collection in a review].
I can't read Agatha Christie either....Most mysteries--I'd say 90%--are written by people who can't write. I take it they write mysteries because there are enough people in the world who will read almost anything in this field....There's always a market for a clever hack and I must say that the nicest writers I have known personally are the hacks. The others are egotists and boring.
Which reminds me I am now the same.
This is what I love about Chandler: he can but utterly, defiantly obtuse on the matter of the merits and appeal of riddlers like Carr and Christie, but then he can deflate himself in a burst of self awareness.
Fox's next letter to Chandler was full of praise for Chandler's new Philip Marlowe mystery, The Long Goodbye, often considered Chandler's best novel.
|you'd think the man would be |
happy to hear such praise--
he must be jaded or something
I read The Long Goodbye in one day, and wound up rather depressed, because the book made it so terribly clear how wide the gap really is between your accomplishment and mine. It will have the same effect on all of your colleagues who are not hopeless egotists....
On the lighter side, I must report immense relief at Marlowe finally being allowed to sleep with one of his women....
....Has it seriously occurred to you to write your autobiography?...[If not] I'd like a further try at persuading you to allow me to attempt a straight biography....
It was nice of you to read it. The only defense I can make for it is the obvious one [money?], apart from whatever slight flavor of real cop talk I managed to get in....
In his response to Fox, typed on February 16, Chandler, after a long rant against the IRS, whom he declared he intended to "cheat" out of as much tax as he could "without getting sent up," threw cold water on Fox's life story proposal, declaring: "I don't know why I should write an autobiography....If I did it, it would be full of lies. I don't think anyone else should do it, though, and I shouldn't care for the idea...."
Concerning Fox's statement that The Long Goodbye had a transparent solution to its mystery, Chandler reiterated his view that "no 'honest' mystery plot will fool the aficionado....I never bother about who bumped off Sir Montague Gore-Cavendish in the gun room with the doors and windows all locked. Very often just for the fun of it I look at the end and then amuse myself with watching the author try to smudge his fingerprints....
On February 24, Chandler invited Fox and his wife to visit him and his wife in La Jolla, though he noted, "My wife is not in the best of health...." Fox accepted and reported in March that he and his wife had "had a grand time" with the Chandlers. Chandler mostly discussed his and his wife's problem with finding good cooks:
These [I've just discussed] have all been white. I have heard a lot about wonderful colored cooks. I haven't met one around here. Most people here have them, and I know one woman, the wife of a judge, who pays a colored cool $100 a month for two days a week.
I have read a book called Casino Royale which was reviewed in Time along with my book and I liked it but thought it overrated. Get it and take a look because it's along the lines of yours. [Dark Crusade?] Seemed to me to contain 4 or 5 errors. (If you can't get it, I'll send you my copy to read. Don't buy it.)
Fox agreed with Chandler's assessment of Ian Fleming's James Bond novel, the first in the hugely successful series, which Newsweek had praised as "awash with champagne and gore":
I've just read Casino Royale, which has two very interesting scenes: the baccarat game and the torture scene. Most of the rest I sort of raised an eyebrow at. There were several outright impossibilities, probably injected because the author, knowing better, figured he had to cater to the reader's demand for sensational incidents or something. He's got literary talent, I should think, but the book's architecture makes no sense to me, and the girl is surely a very unsatisfactory and unbelievable character?
In the next and last installment of this series, more on Casino Royale, the complexion of cooks and the fellow crime writer whom Chandler simply referred to as "that creep." Great upheaval was about to hit Chandler's enclosed world. As in any good mystery, there's a wicked twist in the tale, one which may even surprise the Chandler aficionado.