Studying the Masters of Crime/Detective Fiction. Part 4 – Raymond Chandler

This post is the fourth in a series that I’ve been writing about the individuals that I view as the masters in my genre of choice, crime/detective fiction. I am a firm believer that you become better in whatever field you pursue by following those that excelled and paved the way before you.

Studying the Masters of Crime/Detective Fiction

Part 4 – Raymond Chandler

Raymond Thornton Chandler, along with John D. MacDonald, Dashiell Hammett, and others, is considered one of the pioneers of the hard-boiled school of crime/detective fiction. He was born in 1888. After losing his oil company job during the Great Depression, he decided to become a writer. He published his first short story in 1933 in a popular pulp magazine.

Chandler wrote The Big Sleep, his first novel, in 1939. This novel, along with another five of his seven novels, were adapted as movies. His protagonist, Phillip Marlowe, became so popular in Chandler’s writing that the character was adapted for a radio show and also played by Humphrey Bogart.

Chandler was greatly admired for his prose by critics and fellow writers. Though not as prolific as some of his contemporaries, many of his works are considered important literary contributions.

Chandler was famous, and criticized, for his similes that became a staple for film noir detective films. Here are some examples1:

“From 30 feet away she looked like a lot of class. From 10 feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from 30 feet away.”


“To say she had a face that would have stopped a clock would have been to insult her. It would have stopped a runaway horse.”

“She’s a charming middle age lady with a face like a bucket of mud and if she’s washed her hair since Coolidge’s second term, I’ll eat my spare tire, rim and all.”

“His smile was as stiff as a frozen fish.”

“She was as cute as a washtub.”

“I called him from a phone booth. The voice that answered was fat. It wheezed softly, like the voice of a man who had just won a pie-eating contest.”

Here is my favorite:

“It was a blonde. A blonde that could make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window.”

I need to go back and read more Raymond Chandler novels if only to weave more Chandler-like similes into my own writing for my own entertainment and hopefully the entertainment of others.

Comments and thoughts are welcome.

1Source – Chandlerisms: A collection of similes, one-liners, and turns of phrase written by Raymond Chandler –