Recently I have read Raymond Chandler’s Trouble Is My Business, a handful of powerful short stories featuring Philip Marlowe, hero of The Big Sleep and other classics. This is feisty writing, tough and wise-cracking, and it portrays a Los Angeles which is – at least in parts – dirty, crooked, and rotten, These stories are well worth a read, and Chandler fans, if they don’t already know them, will not be disappointed. They date from 1934, and although many of the practical things date very rapidly (just imagine, they have to stop driving and go into a drugstore to make a phone call!), these are stories determinedly modern in tone.
Two decades later, another English writer (yes Chandler was English, educated at Dulwich College), was writing altogether more wholesome stuff, about the defence of the realm and a more straightforward world of good and evil – Geoffrey Household, in A Time To Kill. I have not yet managed to find his famous novel of danger and escape, Rogue Male, but I imagine this gives off much the same powerful smell of derring-do, honest sweat, and fiendish foreigners. Set largely in Dorset, this is a fun, fast moving story, rather in the mould of Buchan, but slightly more up to date. I would recommend it to those who like their adventures hot and strong, but with the assurance that right will be done in the end, and that the women and children will be unharmed.