Blogging has been good in that I have been able to shake off a little of the literary rust that's been clogging up my veins for the past few months. And just as well, since I really have to finish a short story I promised someone six months back.
So as I prepare for a short story, I go back and read some Raymond Chandler. Part of it is delay, but part of it is also inspiration.
I like Chandler for a number of reasons. He worked in a genre and mastered it. His language is both ornate and realistic. And he was about my current age when he started writing. As a result, his stuff has a deeper, lived-in feel to it than a lot of hot young writers.
And he's written probably my favorite opening paragraph. Here it is:
"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 husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge."
It captures that edgy, enclosed feel of a hot California night right there, claustrophobic and sweaty. The passage is from the short story "Red Wind", and after this opening its pretty typical Chandler - which is to say wonderfully written, but slamming against the edges of the hardboiled detective fiction box (The narrator is getting a drink at said cocktail bar. Its him, the bartender, and drunk at the end of the bar. Another guy comes in and asks if anyone has seen a woman - he describes her. No one has. Then the drunk pulls a gun, addresses the newcomer by name, and puts three bullets into the newcomer's heart - you know, typical hardboiled stuff).
Anyway, Chandler remains one of my faves, and I go back to his work regularly before I start my own. If you haven't checked out his stuff, I recommend it.