Tag Archives: The Lady In The Lake

TV & Radio Crime Log: Detective, Lady

UnknownA lot of shows this year have promised plenty but conspicuously failed to deliver – yes, I’m looking at you, Mob City – but hopefully True Detective will live up to the critical acclaim that follows it to these shores.

It’s an anthology show – along the lines of American Horror Story – which is intended to tell a different story each season, using completely different characters.

The first season stars the ubiquitous Matthew McConaughey, and the ubiquitous Woody Harrelson, and it’s being trailed very heavily indeed, perhaps because of those stellar reviews in the States.

Here’s the blurb y’all:

Martin Hart and “Rust” Cohle are two detectives and former partners who worked in Louisiana’s Criminal Investigation Division in the mid-1990s. In 2012, for reasons not immediately revealed, the two are interviewed separately by investigators about their most notorious case: the macabre 1995 murder of a prostitute by a possible serial killer with disturbing occult leanings. As they look back on the case, Hart and Cohle’s personal backstories and often-strained relationship come to the fore.

Hart, an outgoing native Louisianan and family man whose marriage is being frayed by work stress and infidelity, is (at least on the surface) the polar opposite of Cohle, a lone-wolf pessimist and former narcotics detective from Texas. But their shared obsession to hunt down the ritual killer reveals the mercurial nature of Hart and Cohle’s relationship and personalities, and how they affect each other as detectives, friends, and men.

True Detective is kinda slow, apparently, and big on atmosphere, perhaps because it’s the brainchild of a novelist, Nic Pizzolatto. It’s unusual for a writer with no former television experience to write every episode and act as showrunner on a HBO series, so it’ll be interesting to discover what it is that’s got everybody raving.

You can find out for yourself what the fuss is about by watching the first episode on Sky Atlantic on Saturday night, at 9pm.

There’s more hard boiled detective fayre on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday afternoon. Radio 4 is dramatizing every single one of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe novels, including the little-regarded final book, Poodle Springs – I would imagine every saxophonist in London got a little frisson of anticipation when they heard the news. We’ve already missed The Big Sleep – sorry about that – but the second, The Lady In The Lake, starts at 2.30pm.

Toby Stephens stars – he’s good, isn’t he, and he has the right jaw for Marlowe. There’s no photo, I’m afraid. I was hoping BBC Picture Publicity might put Stephens in a trenchcoat and a fedora – as is often the way – and take him out the emergency exit to snap him looking charming by some bins and a drainpipe, but sadly it wasn’t to be.

However, if Marlowe and Chandler are your thing you may want to take a gander here to get you in the mood.

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Criminal Minds: Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler was one of the most influential American crime-writers of all time. His battered, moral, cynical detective Philip Marlowe has become an archetype of the genre, endlessly recycled and referenced. Here are ten facts about the writer.

images1/ A quintessentially American author, Chandler spent much of his early life in England. At the age of 12 he moved with his parents to South London, and was educated at Dulwich College, where he resided at, yes, Marlowe House. Becoming a British citizen, he worked in the civil service and as a journalist before moving back to the States in 1912.

2/ Chandler didn’t start writing till he was 44 when he was laid off as an oil company executive for his continual drunkenness. But writing success came slowly. His seven novels: The Big sleep, Farewell, My Lovely, The High Window, The Lady In The Lake, The Little Sister, The Long Goodbye, Playback and Poodle Springs are regarded as classics (well, the first five at least), but the early novels struggled to sell and it wasn’t until Hollywood started taking an interest that his fortunes changed.

3/ Philip Marlowe – named after the famous Elizabethan writer and secret agent – didn’t appear fully-formed. There were a number of prototypes of the character in Chandler’s many short stories, variously named Mallory, John Dalmas and Ted Carmady. When Chandler later compiled those early stories he simply changed the name of his various protagonists to Marlowe. He was a terrific recycler of his own material. Most of his novels were cannibalized from various short stories.

4/ His essay The Simple Art Of Murder from 1950 is one of the defining texts Unknownabout crime fiction. He extols the virtue of the Black Mask school of hard-boiled detective novels while putting the boot into what he saw as contrived and formulaic English countryhouse murder mysteries. He demands that detective fiction must have a strong moral vision:

Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor.

5/ Chandler’s adventures in Hollywood were unhappy. He was hired to work on the screenplay for Strangers On A Train – and is credited, although the script was largely rewritten– but Chandler and Alfred Hitchcock fell out big time. Chandler hated what he saw as endless script conferences – ‘god awful jabber sessions’ – and called Hitchcock a ‘fat bastard.’ He accused the director of being willing to sacrifice logic and coherence for dramatic effect, although this was the writer who also famously said: ‘When in doubt have a man with a gun in his hand come through the door.’

6/ Chandler also worked with Billy Wilder, with whom he also fell out. Chandler actually makes an uncredited cameo in Double Indemnity, sitting in a hallway reading a book as Fred MacMurray walks past. Astonishingly, this in-plain-sight cameo remained unnoticed by anyone for more than 60 years, until a French film historian spotted him.

7/ His only origjnal screenplay was The Blue Dahlia, starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. Chandler struggled with alcoholism all his life and during this period was teetotal. He decided that the only way to cure his writer’s block was to start drinking again. Working in a stupor, with limousines parked outside his house to ferry pages of script to the studio and a battery of secretaries on hand, Chandler got it finished. The producer of the film, John Houseman, said of those eight days: “Chandler did not draw one sober breath, nor did one speck of solid food pass his lips.”

images-28/  Like all irascible, insomniac drunks, Chandler liked to write a letter, and they’ve been published. They are by turns acerbic, combative, defensive and highly-entertaining. “When I split an infinitive, God damn it, I intend that it should stay split.”

9/ Riddled by eczema, Chandler typed his novels wearing white gloves.

10/ His final novel Poodle Springs – in which Marlowe is married – was left unfinished when he died in 1959 and was later completed by crime writer Robert B. Parker. Emboldened by his encounter with Marlowe, Parker – brave man – wrote a sequel to The Big Sleep called Perchance To Dream.

And Marlowe, like other archetypes of the genre such as Holmes and Bond, continues to live on long after Chandler’s death. The Black Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black – the crime-writing name of Booker winner John Banville – is published next year.