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ADVENTURES OF PHILIP MARLOWE

ADVENTURES OF PHILIP MARLOWE

Elements of mystery have always been represented in literature, but the detective story didn't arrive on the scene until the mid 1800's. Edgar Allan Poe's The Murders in the Rue Morgue, published in 1841, was the first. The Murder's main character, C. Auguste Dupin, was a brilliant detective who relied on superior deductive powers to solve the crime. He and his unnamed narrator companion solved this and two other mysteries. 

Later in the 19th century Sir Arthur Conan Doyle expanded on Poe's new concept in his Sherlock Holmes stories. Many think that Doyle patterned Holmes and Watson after Dupin and his friend. The Sherlock Holmes stories were wildly popular in England, and after Conan Doyle, the British continued to dominate the detective genre with other detectives who depended on keen observation and deductive logic to solve crimes. These detectives most commonly applied their brilliance to crimes in quaint country houses outside small idyllic villages.

Then, in the 1930's and 1940's American writers added a grittier urban element to the detective genre — the hardboiled detective. As opposed to the typical British detective, the hardboiled detective was generally a cynical loner with a strong sense of justice that wasn't necessarily limited to that provided by the court system. Instead of country houses, these detectives were more likely to be found in shady all-night bars or on the mean streets of Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York City.

Dashiell Hammett introduced the new genre, and Sam Spade, in 1930 in his novel The Maltese Falcon. A few years later Raymond Chandler came along and perfected the type, with his detective, Philip Marlowe. Chandler introduced Marlowe in his first novel, The Big Sleep, and Philip Marlowe continued to solve crimes in six subsequent Chandler novels. Chandler had previously published a number of short stories featuring other detectives; however, Marlowe proved so popular that when the stories were later republished the author often switched the detectives to Philip Marlowe. 

Chandler's style was unique. His sparse style was full of wonderfully sharp similies and rich descriptive narration. Here's an example from The Little Sister:

"I put the duster away folded with the dust in it, leaned back and just sat, not smoking, not even thinking. I was a blank man. I had no face, no meaning, no personality, hardly a name. I didn't want to eat. I didn't even want a drink. I was the page from yesterday's calendar crumpled at the bottom of the waste basket."

Originally posted 2018-01-09 04:18:53.

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