Tag Archives: Raymond Chandler

The Detective’s Gambit

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I’m a chess addict and my Sam Smith mystery, Mind Games, is about a chess player. Chess and mysteries have a common thread, the solving of a puzzle. With that in mind, I decided to research the connection between private detectives and chess. 

August 1957 saw the television premiere of The Chess Player, series one, episode eight of the Richard Diamond Private Detective series. In this episode, the wife of a wealthy industrialist hires Richard Diamond to discover who is trying to murder her husband. The plot is standard for the genre. However, David Janssen’s portrayal of Richard Diamond is engaging and it foreshadows his starring role as Richard Kimble in the television series The Fugitive. In The Chess Player, Julian Tyler, the industrialist husband, mentions that he played Capablanca and that he introduced a new variation to the Ruy Lopez.

When not tangling with femme fatales or dodging bullets, Raymond Chandler’s private detective, Philip Marlowe, could often be found brooding over chess puzzles. Marlowe preferred puzzles to over the board games with real opponents, which served to highlight his mistrust of his opponents, and humanity as a whole. 

Chess served as a literary motif in Chandler’s novel, The High Window, while Marlowe himself confessed, “I like liquor and women and chess and a few other things.” Maybe Chandler, and Marlowe, had a love-hate relationship with chess because, in The Long Goodbye, Marlowe stated, “Chess is the most elaborate waste of human intelligence outside of an advertising agency.” Yet Marlowe constantly returned to chess, including in the novel and television movie, Poodle Springs, a story written by Robert B Parker, another great of private detective literature.

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There are other examples of chess and the private detective, although in truth they are not numerous. In my Sam Smith Mystery Series, Sam (Samantha) is a budding chess player, keen to learn about the game. Chess is the ideal game to use as a metaphor in detective fiction. Furthermore, knowledge of the game suggests a certain level of intelligence. To win through, both the chess player and the private detective know that they have to make the right moves, and that one slip could be fatal.

 

Sam’s ‘Grandfathers’

I’m honoured that the following five star review, placed on Amazon for Sam’s Song, should draw comparisons with Phillip Marlowe and Sam Spade because, in essence, they are my Sam’s ‘grandfathers’.

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The Review

I really enjoyed this mystery starring Sam as an emotionally damaged, female private detective. Early on I had to remind myself more than once that this story was set in the UK and not the USA because it felt like I was reading an atmospheric Raymond Chandler story! Sam wouldn’t have been out of place as a friend to Sam Spade or Phillip Marlowe. But enough of comparisons because this is an excellent read, which stands on its own merits.

We have a great mix of characters. Sam is an interesting and very believable character. There is an abusive ex husband and the scenes with him were very well written. There is the friend in the police service every private eye needs and again Sweets was well described. The clients are in the music industry and I thought the author did a great job of giving each character their own identity. The various shades of bad guys are an interesting mix and finally, there is Alan who offers the possibility of romance.

There is a proper murder mystery to be solved but it is the characters which raise the book above the average and had me turning the pages. I look forward to reading further adventures with Sam.

Sam on Amazon

Raymond Chandler Quote

Raymond Chandler Quote

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“In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But down these mean streets a man (or woman H.H.) 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 — by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. I do not care much about his private life; he is neither a eunuch nor a satyr; I think he might seduce a duchess and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin; if he is a man of honor in one thing, he is that in all things.

He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks — that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness.

The story is the man’s adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.” ― Raymond Chandler