Guilty, your Honor. I can’t get enough of John Grisham, Patricia Highsmith, Michael Connolly, Elizabeth George and, well, you get the idea. I’m also hooked on some of the Brits, Agatha Christie, Josephine Tey, Ruth Rendell, Daphne Du Maurier, Minette Walters and Ken Follett. They are my cup of tea.
But it wasn’t until a friend of ours, visiting from London, asked us to show him some of Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles that I became aware of this mystery master.
It was a no-brainer. I hit my favorite bookstore, Book Soup, the largest independent bookstore in Hollywood. It’s been serving readers, writers, artists, rock’n’rollers, and celebrities since 1975.
I’m always enticed by their well-chosen selections bursting from every shelf and tabletop.
What surprised me was his close association with Los Angeles,
even though he described it as,
“A city with all the personality of a paper cup.”
Still, it didn’t get in the way of his creativity.
“Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon.”
He went on to create some of the most memorable noir mysteries in American literature.
All of these were made into films. He also wrote the screenplays for a number of other movies.
But, his feelings about working in Hollywood were mixed to say the least.
“If my books had been any worse, I should not be invited to Hollywood,
and if they had been any better, I should not have come.”
He lived in downtown Los Angeles and included a number of city locations in his books. One of them was Angels Flight, a landmark funicular railway built in 1901 and connecting Hill Street and Olive Street.
His apartment was near the top of the railway in an area called Bunker Hill. In those days, it was a shady collection of Victorian homes that had been converted into cheap rooming houses.
After he was fired from the Danny Oil Company, he worked at a creamery and his mother worked at Grand Central Market, which is still there today. Just as downtown Los Angeles is well on it’s way to becoming gentrified, so has the market, a landmark since 1917, which brings together the cuisines of cultures of LA.
“The coffee shop smell was strong enough to build a garage on.”
“She looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food.”
“The streets were dark with something more than night.”
During the 30’s and 40’s, Chandler hung out in the Writers Room in the back of Musso & Frank, the oldest restaurant in Hollywood. The room was designed for drinking, socializing and a bit of writing every now and then.
“I’m an occasional drinker, the kind of guy who goes out for a beer and wakes up in Singapore with a full beard.”
“She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.”
“A good title is the title of a successful book.”
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