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The position of Raymond Chandler in the pantheon of American letters has long been subject to much debate.
Naturally imbued with a literary sensibility Chandler helped to revolutionise the crime genre, bringing to it a colourful, hardedged vernacular allied to a modern social commentary.
Through the figure of private eye, Philip Marlowe, Chandler created a contemporary knight errant whose not so picturesque adventures trudging the mean streets of Los Angeles helped to vividly define the moral dilemmas of a dark, uncertain post-war world.
And yet … can The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely and Lady in the Lake be considered ‘literature’?
Author Anthony Fowles – who freely admits to writing half-a-dozen ‘sub-Chandlerian’ thrillers – brings to the discussion both the detached eye of the professional critic and the sympathetic understanding of the practitioner.
It is a background which allows Fowles to make a balanced, finely-nuanced contribution to the ongoing Chandler debate, refusing to relegate the noir master to the wilderness of ‘genre writer’ but equally avoiding outlandish claims of literary pre-eminence.
In circumventing the pitfalls and simplicities of ‘either/or’, Fowles places Chandler’s achievements in a fully-realised context, enabling the reader to appreciate more deeply the peculiar strengths and limitations of the prose lyricist of the American mid-century.
About the author:
Born in Surrey, Anthony Fowles was educated at Oxford and the University of Southern California. After a decade working as a writer in Hollywood, he established a literary career in Britain, penning over thirty works of fiction, criticism and biography.
Greenwich Exchange Category: Literature
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