The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler (1949)

Back to Chandler again, and his two favourite subjects: booze and broads.

Let’s dodge some bullets and savour some more Chandler style. Been a while. The Little Sister’s in the heading, so let’s let it lead.

By and along the way, one can’t help wondering if the author speaks from personal experience. If so, what a life.

The Little Sister (1949)

I went in. A gun in the kidneys wouldn’t have surprised me a bit. She stood so that I had to practically push her mammaries out of the way to get through the door. She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looked at moonlight. She closed the door and danced over to a small portable bar.

Dig the mixing of the senses. Probably just as well. If she smelled like the Taj Mahal at moonlight he might not’ve gone in. And then again, later on…

I… closed the door with my elbow and slid past her. It was like the first time. “You ought to carry insurance on those,” I said, touching one. The nipple was as hard as a ruby.

What a boring life I lead. So a welcome spicy sprinkle into the soup of nonsense bubbling in my egg. Along with Little Egypt, the Kaiser Chiefs, curries, and Tuesdays.

Meanwhile, thirsty work for the protagonist.

I got the bottle of Old Forester out. There was nothing slow about the way I poured myself a drink and dropped it down my throat.

He’s doing that what-it-isn’t thing again. I think we called that The Chandler Ain’t in The Lady in the Lake.

Farewell, My Lovely (1940)

I poured her a slug that would have made me float over a wall.

“I knew a guy once who smoked jujus,” she said. “Three highballs and three sticks of tea and it took a pipe wrench to get him off the chandelier.”

Yeah, I can see that. I can’t do both neither. Hic.

“I’m not of those promiscuous bitches. I can be had – but not just by reaching. Yes, I’ll take a drink.”

Nice control there.

The High Window (1943)

Breeze looked at me very steadily. Then he sighed. Then he picked the glass up and tasted it and sighed again and shook his head sideways with a half smile; the way a man does when you give him a drink and he needs it very badly and it is just right and the first swallow is like a peek into a cleaner, sunnier, brighter world.

Just get off on that pace in that 57-word sentence. And it’s a nod to Papa’s style. I mean Hemingway, not my dad. You know, he walked down the hill and across the road and then over the bridge and up the hill opposite. Or whatever it was.

Just remembered another lovely paced para.

He laid the letter-opener down and swung open a door in the desk and got a cut-glass decanter out. He poured liquid out of it in a glass and drank it and put the stopper back in the decanter and put the decanter back in the desk.

Two desks, two glasses and three decanters in two sentences. Ratchets up the suspense too.

Back to the dames.

She wore an egret plume in her hair, and enough clothes to hide behind a toothpick.

Poodle Springs (Chandler started it in 1958, pegged out, and Robert B Parker finished it in 1988)

She got some wine in. She was drinking it as if the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse had been sighted in Encino… She was wearing enough perfume to stop a charging rhino…

Killer in the Rain (1964)

Her evening gown was cut so low at the back that she was wearing a black beauty patch on her lumbar muscle, about an inch below where her panties would have been, if she had been wearing any panties.

And here’s one just to reconfirm that Chandler did indeed seem to have a thing about scantily clad women wearing feathers.

She wore feathers in her hair, enough clothes to hide behind a three-cent stamp.

Me, too. Damn. Born at the wrong time.

Thanks for being here.

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Book Bore.

Guy Nicholls, writer and book bore.