This is an example of how it happens. Patti Abbott, author, blogger and friend, posted about sentences on September 21st: What Makes a Sentence Great? she asked. So who was/is a great sentence maker? Well, my first thought was Hemingway, but then I wondered if it was the sentences, or the paragraphs, or what. So I kept thinking.
How about style, and impact? I had my choice: Raymond Chandler. But what work, what sentence? What came to me then was the opening of his story “Red Wind”. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Southern California and I understand the Santa Ana winds, how they feel, the heat of them, but I’ve thought the opening of that story was perfect. The sentences are perfect.
I had to look it up, read that opening again. Make sure I was remembering it right. So I pulled one of the books the story is in off the shelf (I have a couple). It was The Midnight Raymond Candler, an omnibus that contains four long stories, “Red Wind”, “Trouble Is My Business”, “Blackmailers Don’t Shoot” and “The Pencil” as well as two novels, The Little Sister and The Long Goodbye. It’s a good omnibus.
I read the first few sentences of “Red Wind”. In case you don’t remember, here they are:
“There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husband’s necks.”
Then I read the first few paragraphs. Then, well, you can guess. I read the whole thing. Now I’m thinking of reading the rest of the stories. Maybe the whole omnibus. Chandler is that good, and it’s been a while since I visited these stories and novels. I’m in the middle of reading other things, but heck. That’s how this thing works, this temptation.