Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Monday, November 26, 2012

Man of Mystery

My addiction to mysteries and thrillers has evolved (and deepened ... and darkened?) over the decades since, just a wee bit of a lad, I read some Hardy Boys novels--and (as I've noted here before) some Nancy Drews, titles I made certain my (male) friends of pubescence and adolescence did not know I was reading.  Consequences for such behavior were dire (Dyer?) in 1958 or so.  Even I--an especially dim lad in those days--knew that.

But after that boyhood phase ... remission.  I don't recall reading any mysteries throughout high school and college.  (Life itself, then, was too much of a mystery, I guess.)  But during my early career at Harmon Middle School I began reading--why?--the mystery novels of Raymond Chandler, the ones featuring P. I. Philip Marlowe.  I really cannot remember why, though I have a wispy memory (never reliable) that my older brother, Richard, recommended them?  Or maybe I'd recently seen on TV The Big Sleep, the Bogart and Bacall film (1946), directed by Howard Hawks--with screenplay by William Faulkner (yes, that Faulkner), his only full screen credit, if I remember.  And do you remember the sexy bookstore scene with Dorothy Malone and Bogart?  Lights go out, shades get pulled, clothes get ... though we don't see that part (it was 1946, remember).

By the time I started reading Chandler, I had already developed into the sort of reader with a simple but time-consuming pattern of behavior: If I read one book by an author (and I like it), I must then read everything else the dude--or dude-ess--ever published.  This is an imperative I still obey--witness my posts from last fall about reading my way through the canon of John O'Hara.

So, off I went on a Chandler adventure, reading all the Marlowe novels--Link: List of Marlowe novels.  BTW: If you've seen the wonderful Robert Downey Jr./Val Kilmer/Michelle Monaghan film Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang (2005)--which has at its core a series of old detective novels--you may remember that the filmmaker (Shane Black) divided the story, sort of, into chapters.  And each of those chapters has a title.  And each of those titles is the title of a Marlowe novel (e.g., The Lady in the Lake).

About the time I was reading Marlowe novels, some films based on his work were back in circulation.  In 1973, Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye (with Elliott Gould as a modern-day Marlowe) dazzled me, and another Farewell, My Lovely (1975) with Robert Mitchum as a Marlowe and a sizzling Charlotte Rampling (I loved the music in this one--score by David Shire, who later did The World According to Garp and Zodiac).  In 1978, Mitchum played Marlowe again in a re-make of The Big Sleep (how dare they!)--this time set in England ... nuff said.  (Marlowe out of southern California?  Put Santa in the Sahara!)

I loved the narration in the Chandler novels (P. I. Marlowe tells his own stories).  Like this, from Farewell, My LovelyIt was a nice face, a face you get to like. Pretty, but not so pretty that you would have to wear brass knuckles every time you took it out.   Or this from The Long Goodbye: There was a sad fellow over on a bar stool talking to the bartender, who was polishing a glass and listening with that plastic smile people wear when they are trying not to scream.

Oh yeah!

Soon I was so obsessed with Chandler and Marlowe that I knew I had to do something: write a play about him and have my middle school students perform it!

And so I did ...


Sizzling C. Rampling,
Farewell, My Lovely, 1975

No comments:

Post a Comment