Sort of Forgotten: Killer In the Rain by Raymond Chandler

one in a series of forgotten or seldom read books

Killer in the Rain by Raymond Chandler, stories originally published 1934-1941,
this collection © 1964 – copy shown is the Ballantine Books 1977 paperback

This short story collection contains 8 stories: “Killer in the Rain”, “The Man Who Liked Dogs”, “The Curtain”, “Try the Girl”, “Mandarin’s Jade”, “Bay City Blues”, “The Lady in the Lake”, “No Crime in the Mountains”.

These stories by Chandler are both less and more than they seem. Every one of them was cannibalized by Chandler and became part of a novel. Sometimes it was a character or two who made the transition, more often it was whole pieces of plot, in some cases (The Lady In The Lake) the entire story was used and became a novel by added plot and a few name changes.

In his informative introduction to this collection, Philip Durham traces the publication and cannibalization of these eight stories, part or all of which became The Big Sleep, Farewell My Lovely and The Lady in the Lake.

None of the stories in this collection appears in Chandler’s 1950 “official” short story collection The Simple Art of Murder. Once Chandler cannibalized a story he believed it should be buried, so the stories were left to fade away with the pulp magazines in which they were originally published, thus none of these stories was published by Chandler during his lifetime, though three were published in collections, which Chandler maintained were published by mistake and without his permission: “No Crime in the Mountains” appeared in Great American Detective Stories edited by Anthony Boucher (1945), “The Man Who Liked Dogs” appeared in Joseph Shaw’s The Hard Boiled Omnibus (1946) while “Bay City Blues” appeared in Verdict (1953).

This collection was my introduction to Raymond Chandler. I was wowed by the writing, and I was hooked. I read this, the collection The Simple Art of Murder and the collection Pickup On Noon Street before I ever got to one of Chandler’s novels. When I did start on the novels – with The Big Sleep if I recall correctly – I was so enthralled I didn’t notice there were pieces of the short stories I’d already read. If I had, I wouldn’t have cared. Or perhaps I noticed and just don’t remember now, after I’ve read all of Chandler so many times.

While these stories are not in the two volume Library of America set of Chandler’s works, they are to be found in the 1,300 page Raymond Chandler: Collected Stories published by Everyman’s Library, which contains all of Chandler’s short fiction, mystery and other. Whatever the source, it’s worth seeking these out. You just can’t go wrong with Raymond Chandler.

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Current Reading: Sharra, Walton, Ballairs

I can’t believe it’s September already, where did (hot, miserable) Summer go?

The Killer Angels by Michael Sharra – historical fiction based on fact. This novel was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1975. It tells the story of the four days of the Battle of Gettysburg, beginning on June 30, 1863, as the troops of both the Union and the Confederacy move into the valley around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and continuing on July 1, July 2, and July 3, when the battle was fought. The story is character-driven and told from the viewpoint of various protagonists. A film adaptation of the novel, titled Gettysburg, was released in 1993. I liked this one a lot.

An Informal History of the Hugo Awards by Jo Walton – non-fiction. When she says in the title of this book that this is an informal history, what that means is that it’s a combination of the lists of winners and runners-up plus her opinions on what won, what she thinks should have won (in most cases books by female authors) and then comments by Rich Horton and Gardner Dozois, both of whom’s opinions I value. Interesting, and I wound up putting several things on my library hold list and buying a few things too.

The Dead Shall Be Raised by George Bellairs – mystery.  This is one of Bellair’s shorter novels, though none of his are long by today’s standards. In this one, a body is discovered in the peat while Home Guard troops are digging a trench during maneuvers. The remains are twenty years old, and cause a reopening of a murder case from that time. Inspector Littlejohn happens to be on the scene, as he’s visiting friends during Christmastime, and the locals are only too happy to have a Scotland Yard man there to help them out. Good atmosphere, pretty good plot, interesting characters. I enjoyed it.

How about you?
What have you been reading lately?

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FFB: Three Times A Victim by F. L. Wallace

another in my series of forgotten or seldom read books, this revised from a 2009 post

three times a victim cvrThree Times A Victim by F. L. Wallace, 1957, Ace Books, paperback (Ace Double)

F. L. Wallace (aka Floyd Wallace), was primarily known as a science fiction writer with stories published in Astounding Science Fiction, Galaxy and others. He wrote mystery short stories and two novels, this book and Wired for Scandal, which was also published by Ace, in 1959.

P.I. Norman Hazard works in L.A., his office near a city park that is being chopped up by a freeway project. A body is found under road grading equipment, later that day another in some bushes in the park. Both were old men who visited the park frequently to play chess.

Hazard is hired to find an old man; possibly deceased. An interesting, cast of characters and good sense of place makes up for the somewhat predictable plotting, but there are enough twists and turns in 164 pages to make things interesting. I enjoyed this.

I consider this one to be good, but not great. It’s certainly  worth a look. There are inexpensive copies available, and the flip side of this Ace double is A Night for Treason by John Jakes. Yes, that John Jakes, the one who who later wrote North and South and several “family sagas”.

Or you can try for the Phantom edition. Bill Crider featured it in one of his Paperback pieces in his Pop Culture blog, with this cover and back:

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Reading – The DNFs

Can you believe it’s September already?

Regardless of my efforts to be mindful about the books I decide to read, sometimes there are duds. Some of the time, perhaps most of the time, it’s because I’ve made a poor choice, but sometimes it’s the book. Lately I’ve had several Did Not Finish (DNF) experiences, so I thought instead of telling you what I’m reading this week, I’d share those fails.

Chasing A Blond Moon by Joseph Heywood – mystery. I already discussed this one on August 5th (here), so no need to repeat. Subject matter didn’t work for me.

Gate Crashers by Patrick Tomlinson – science fiction. Though I love the work of Christopher Anvil, Fredric Brown and Eric Frank Russell, most of the time “funny” SF just doesn’t work for me. The premise in Gate Crashers held strong promise, but there wasn’t a page that didn’t have the author or a character trying to be clever, “funny” or cute about something, even when the situation hardly warranted it. No, thanks. I quit after a couple dozen pages.

Terra Incognita by Connie Willis – science fiction/fantasy. This is a collection of three novellas, but I only got halfway through the first one. When a writer makes up words to make the story more “science fictioney”, that’s when I quit, and that was the case here. Also there was no character I cared a hoot about, everyone was objectionable in some way. Phooey.

A Fire In the Deep by Vernor Vinge – science fiction. This one is all on me. This is generally considered to be a classic, and it was a Hugo winner, but for me it was convoluted to the point of being indecipherable. The author begins with an illustration of his galaxy (region of space? universe?), with various layers, each labeled. I studied it and could make no sense of it. I started reading and could make no sense of that either. Perhaps I just wasn’t in the mood, but it seemed Vinge was making me work way too hard to get into this one.

How about you?
Have you quit any books lately?

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Forgotten book: A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke

Obviously, the computer is fixed. It wasn’t a big deal, I should have figured it out myself.
Meanwhile, this is another in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

This may or may not truly be a “forgotten book”, but it is certainly not much read these days. I know I hadn’t thought about it for a very long time until, reading Jo Walton’s An Informal History of the Hugo Awards, I saw it listed and discussed. So I decided to reread it. The copy shown is my copy, the January 1963 Dell edition of the 1961 original published by Harcourt Brace.

Jo Walton’s comments are right on target, for the most part, so I’m quoting some of them:

“I remembered this book as an exciting technical story about a rescue on the moon—and my goodness, that’s what it still is. A Fall of Moondust remains an edge-of-the-seat exciting technical story of a rescue on the moon. It’s the 2050s. The solar system is being colonized. On the moon, they want to make some money from tourism. They have a boat that skims over the dust in the “Sea of Thirst,” just a tour bus, really, out there to give the tourists a show—until the day when there’s a moonquake and the boat slips down into the dust.”

From that point on, the book tells how, with brains, luck and patience, the craft is located and the passengers rescued. The “dust” is made up of such tiny particles that radio signals can’t penetrate it, so the dust-drowned craft is completely out of touch with Moonbase. They can’t send any signal without opening a door or hatch, which would let the dust flow in and suffocate everyone in minutes.

The passengers, not knowing how deep they may be, can’t risk trying to “swim” through the dust, which flows like a liquid and is blinding and deafening, trying to find the surface. Then what? To sink again. So the passengers settle in for a wait, for rescue.

The people on the surface work frantically to rescue them. As Walton says, “It’s as unputdownable today as when I first read it.”

The tension never lets up. The ship goes under the surface, and time is ticking and heat is rising and oxygen is running out and more things keep happening—it’s riveting. You can never forget you’re on the moon. All Earth can do is watch. Some of the passengers are comic relief, but the vast majority of the characters in this book are competent men doing their jobs. Even the grumpy astronomer is a competent man doing his job with a bit of sarcasm.

“This is the future that didn’t happen, the future where the boffins of the 1950s rose up and colonized the solar system with slide rules and general cooperative intellectual competence. This moon was first reached in 1967 by the Soviets—and this was published after Kennedy announced the space race, so Clarke was putting his money on the other side. The hotels have notices in English, Russian, and Chinese, but there’s no indication that the Cold War is still a problem.”

A Fall of Moondust is a classic of science fiction—a “man against nature” story, at one-sixth gravity and in a sea of dust that’s halfway to being a liquid. The characters are thin, but the prose is full of the poetry of science. We have come a long way since 1961, but this is readable, exciting, and chock-full of sense of wonder.

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Down for a few

sick computerI may be off the ‘net for a few days; my computer needs a part replacement: the sound output jack, of all things. Not a big deal, except my external speakers work off it, and that’s mostly where I listen to music, in system and on CDs.  I’ve never had a output jack fail on any piece of equipment I’ve ever owned.

So off to Apple in a few hours, who may fix it in ten minutes or three days. Who knows?

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Current Reading: Anderson, Coxe, Mammay

Complete Psychotecnic League Stories Volume 2 by Poul Anderson – science fiction short and medium length stories. I mentioned when I listed the third volume of these stories that I was reading them out of order, and now here’s the second one. These are pretty darn good SF stories, but I think the third volume is better.

Murder For Two by George Harmon Coxe – hardboiled mystery. This is the second of Coxe’s Flash Casey novels, featuring Flashgun Casey, photographer for The Morning Express newspaper. Casey gets embroiled in a double murder in this one, the first of a reporter who


works for his newspaper, the second of a suspect in that murder. I’ll be doing a Forgotten Book post on this soon.

Planetside by Michael Mammay – military science fiction. I don’t read a lot of military science fiction as it’s seems to be defined these days as a specific sub-genre, but that’s what this first novel is, and I enjoyed it, mostly. I thought the ending was both abrupt and too easy. My only conclusion is it’s a setup for a sequel. We’ll see.

So how about you?
What have you been reading?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading | 14 Comments

FFB: The Caretaker’s Cat by Erle Stanley Gardner

another in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

The Caretaker’s Cat by Erle Stanley Gardner, © 1935, edition read: Pocket Books, 1962 paperback –  Perry Mason # 7

This, the seventh of Gardner’s Perry Mason novels, has possibly the most convoluted plot of the books in the series so far.

In his will, Peter Laxter guaranteed his faithful caretaker a job and a place to live for life. But Laxter’s grandson Sam says the deal doesn’t include the caretaker’s cat. On a whim, Perry Mason takes the case, against the advice of his assistant and his secretary, Della Street. Mason’s reply is “A man only has a lease on life. All that really counts is a man’s ability to live, to get the most out of it as he goes through it. I get a kick out of playing a no-limit game.”

What is at stake in this one isn’t just whether a cat can stay in a house, there’s more: a million dollars in cash and some diamonds. Mason finds a web of greed and treachery among the heirs, and has to put up with a most repulsive attorney who represents some of them. Who murdered Laxiter? What has the cat got to do with it? The answers are both less and more than the unsuspecting reader might expect, and certainly Mason makes a very unusual move in the courtroom near the end of the book, one that just might win him the case, or might end up in his being disbarred.

This Mason novel, while interesting and having an unusual ending, contains some illogical motives, unlikely actions and a couple of obvious red herrings, but I love the Mason novels regardless.

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“Worst Air Quality in the Western Hemisphere”

Yes, that’s right. Last evening on the CBS Evening News, there was a story on the Pacific Northwest, specifically Washington,Oregon, regarding the air quality. The smoke from fires in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California has settled in the two states and we officially have the worst air quality in the western hemisphere.

This picture was taken a few minutes ago. Normally we can see all the way down the valley and across the hills to the Cascade Mountains. What we see now, and have been seeing for over three weeks, is smoke. Gah!

IMG_4466The picture doesn’t even give you a very good idea, you have to see it in person, which, of course, you don’t want to do!

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Current Reading – Bryson, Horowitz, Goldman

Note: while Patti Abbott’s blog Pattinaise is on hiatus,
she may not be doing her Monday “Things That Are Making Me Happy” post.
Please f
eel free to make a comment here on whatever is making you happy.

If the author list looks familiar, it should. I’ve read these same authors recently, all of them as follow-ups to an earlier book.

The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson – non-fiction, travel. This is a sequel to Bryson’s Notes From A Small Island, which I wrote about just last week. This one is, in a way, an update  of that earlier book, twenty years later. It doesn’t cover exactly the same ground (oops), but has a lot in common with the firs book. If you read and liked Notes, you may like this one too, though I confess for me it’s wasn’t as fresh or interesting.

Point Blanc by Anthony Horowitz – YA spy fiction. Same thing here, I posted on the first book in the series just last week, and here is the second. Alex Rider is again sent to spy out a criminal who’s running a “corrective” school, this time in the Alps, and has many close calls before escaping with the information he needs to foil the plot. This was okay, but I’ll not continue with this series. There is better Horowitz to be read.

Broken Ice by Matt Goldman – mystery. This is the second in the author’s private detective Nils Shapiro series. This time, Nils Shapiro has been hired to find missing Linnea Engstrom, a teenager from the small northern hockey town of Warroad, Minnesota. Most of Warroad is in Minneapolis for the state high school hockey tournament, and Linnea never returned from a quarter-final game. Linnea’s friend Haley Housch is also missing—and soon found dead.

At the crime scene, while talking to police officers, Nils is shot through the shoulder with an arrow and starts to bleed out. Only the quick work of the medical examiner, who is on hand to examine the dead girl, saves Nil’s life. Where is the other missing girl, Linnea? She could be anywhere, but as Nils continues to search, it becomes obvious someone doesn’t want her found. I liked the first book (see my July 22 post) and I liked this one even better. Recommended.

How about you?
What have you been reading lately?

Posted in Books & Reading, current reading | 18 Comments