Raymond Chandler has had many imitators but few equals in the field of crime fiction, where he remains one of the small elite who managed to elevate the whodunit to the level of serious literature. For devotees as well as for fortunate first readers, here is an exciting, carefully chosen collection of vintage Chandler, much of which has long been difficult to obtain. Included are the complete texts of two of his major Philip Marlowe novels -- The Little Sister and The Long Goodbye, four long short stories, and a self-revelatory essay on his two favorite topics, murder and the English language. Joan Kahn, leading expert on the art of suspense, provides an introduction to Chandler and the particular magic he continues to generate. Two of the stories chosen for inclusion have never before appeared in book form in the United States. These are Chandler's first published story and his last: "Blackmailers Don't Shoot," published in Black Mask in 1933, and "The Pencil," which appeared shortly after his death in 1959 and was his first short story in twenty years to feature private-eye Marlowe. All of these selections show Chandler as a master stylist and storyteller. His language is vigorous, corrosive, electrifying, glinting with sharp ironies and imaginative aphorisms. "Chandler," said Malcolm Muggeridge, "very cleverly developed a prose style whose very structure and rhythms are somehow violent. One hears the rat-tat-tat of a sub-machine gun in his sentences." Meticulously plotted with coiled-spring tension, the novels and stories create the authentic climate of malevolence and danger of the West Coast underworld. What they have in common, besides their sheer readability, is what Chandler himself called "the smell of fear."
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