I was talking with a friend, yesterday, about Ray Chandler and Los Angeles – how the author was such a keen observer of his environment, that his voice has become the default voice of LA, and you can’t really set a story in Los Angeles1 without slipping somehow in a chandleresque mode.
The discussion reminded me of a fine book I have here on my shelf – bought more than ten years ago, and part of my collection of noir-related books.
It’s called Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles, and it was written by Elizabeth Ward and Alain Silver.
Silver has devoted most of his work as a critic to genre movies and noir in particular, and obviously the volume does have a noir feel to it.
The book is an exploration of the urban landscape of Los Angeles, through beautiful black and white photographs, snippets from Chandler’s books and spot-on observation – what’s gone, what’s still here, what it was like back then.
It’s like a walk through a deserted city,a nd it underscores that connection I was mentioning – the city and the narrative voice of Chandler, Marlowe’s internal monologue, becoming one, andthe words animating the landscape.
While certainly not the best of Silver’s (or Ward’s) books2, Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles still makes for an excellent read, alone on a stuffed chair, with a single lamp creating an island of light, and some good music on the stereo.
Either Haunted Heart or Always Say Goodbye, by Charlie Haden‘s Quartet West, would be a nice choice.