Sunday, June 2, 2013

Hardboiled detective fiction

The detective stories by Raymond Chandler featuring his Philip Marlowe character methinks qualify as being part of the 'hardboiled' detective fiction genre.

I learn that Mr Chandler wrote these stories using an Underwood Noiseless machine, a very soft-spoken writing machine. I'm imagining he would have used a portable (77?), but don't know or can't find the online reference I got that impression from.

Odd. Whilst Agatha Christies' puzzle-like 'whodunnit' stories were typed on a Remington 5T portable (pretty loud type-clack) these 'hardboiled' were written on a gently soft-striking machine (only the ka-chung of the carriage).

I wonder. Does it add something to the experience of reading or listening to a Marlowe story to imagine it having been typed with the muffled ka-chung of his Noiseless?

To try, the short story 'The Dear, Dead Days' is a very gentle story (nobody dies) and not so 'hardboiled' at all. Though there is plenty of wisecracking.

A more 'hardboiled' story to enjoy is 'Trouble Is My Business'. This one was first broadcast in 1948, starring MGM's dynamic young actor Van Heflin. The audio quality is not so good on this one and there is almost two minutes of commercial seduction to sit through (no, not soap - toothpaste). But still, do sit through the commercial going all lyrical over the minty new flavor to get to what I think is a very typical 'hardboiled' Marlowe story. Now imagine typing all this out on a Noiseless...

In any case; even today I find these are enjoyable short radio-plays. Excellent for listening to during a long drive or when tinkering (with a machine).

Enjoy :)


  1. This is a neat idea, re-typing a writer's stories on the kind of typewriter he (probably) used.

    1. Just a couple of lines, then sat back and listened to the rest (:
      Also just made me realize - writing e.g. The Pickwick Papers was a lot of longhand!

  2. I had a shot at writing something Chandleresque on my 1946 Royal Quiet De Luxe;

    Maybe it would have turned out better if I'd used a Noiseless. Although the Royal was quiet enough, I suppose.
    Thanks for the link to the radio play, too. I've always had Robert Mitchum's voice stuck in my head as the voice of Marlowe (thanks to "Farewell, My Lovely, 1974), but the radio actor captures Marlowe's worldweariness quite well.
    Although, Powers Boothe did a great job of Marlowe in the tv series from the '80s.

  3. Recognize that, liked that series when it was on the telly; took me some time to get the image of Powers Boothe unstuck from my brain when listening to these radio plays :-)

    Also liked Ed Bishop in the 1978-ish BBC radio play adaptations of the books.

    1. When in doubt, go with Bogart. Even though he was the wrong build for Marlowe.

  4. Type isn't everything: Bogart was great as Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade -- though totally contrary to Hammett's description of Spade as a "pleasant blonde Satan." Mary Astor, playing opposite him, had all the right moves, but made a somewhat frigid Brigid O'Shaughnessy--though this may have been deliberate: the original movie of the novel, starring Ricardo Cortez and Bibi Daniels, had been banned for supposedly "lewd" content.

  5. Hadn't considered movies, but went and got a DVD of a.o. The Big Sleep.
    Good tip, tnx :-)