The novelette Killer in the Rain is one of the later short works of Raymond Chandler. He reused some of the elements with great effect in his first novel The Big Sleep.
As a teenager and early teen, I read all of Chandlers novels and loved them very much. Whenever someone asked me who my favourite writer was, I didn’t need to think twice – Chandler. As much as I loved him, I didn’t return to him because I rarely reread books. So, a few years back, someone asked me the question again and I said “It used to be Chandler”. That made it sound as if I didn’t like him anymore, but that wasn’t what I meant, it just meant – it’s been so long, I can’t be sure anymore. While I read and loved all of his novels, I hardly read any of his short stories and novellas, so it was with a lot of trepidation, that I started Killer in the Rain. What an experience this was. This isn’t as good as any of the novels, but it already has all the trademarks and reminded me why he once was my favourite author. Next time someone will ask me the question again, the answer will be – Chandler. And not in past tense, no.
Killer in the Rain is set in LA in the 30s and tells the story of a PI – probably Marlowe – who is asked to look after the daughter of a rich client. She’s been blackmailed and her dad is afraid that she’s got caught up in something sinister. Marlowe finds out the blackmailer owns a lucrative porn book lending business. When he goes to visit him, he finds him dead, his client’s daughter sitting stark naked and completely stoned on a chair, and someone running from the crime scene as soon as Marlowe enters. A little later, one of Steiner’s cars is found in a river, with a body in it.
Telling you more would spoil the story, but I think, this gives you an idea of what to expect.
Killer in the Rain is the novelette that’s closest to his novels in style. We can already see how different from other hard-boiled detectives Marlowe is – he isn’t named in the story, but we can assume it’s him. Marlowe cares. He’s anything but tough. Sure, he can act tough, doesn’t shy away from using a gun and shoot at someone, but he doesn’t do it lightly. As in all the later novels, solving the murder isn’t that important. Marlowe wants to help his client, keep him or her safe. While not as developed as in other books. there’s a social commentary here as well. The corruption of the police is obvious. Marlowe is one of two things that make me love Chandler so much. The other is his style. His books are written in a slang that’s not always easy to understand, especially not since a lot is made up. Chandler loved figures of speech and used them extensively in the novels. Here too, I found many wonderful sentences that made me chuckle.
“Carmen Dravec sat in Steiner’s teakwood chair, wearing her jade earrings.”
“Then all the expression went out of her white face and it looked as intelligent as the bottom of a shoe box.”
“Her giggles ran around the room like rats.”
As the title of the novelette evokes – it’s raining a lot in this book. The weather is always important in Chandlers work. It helps to create a moody atmosphere. I can’t remember if it rains often in his other books, but it does here and in The Big Sleep.
If you’ haven’t read Chandler yet and don’t know where to start this is a good pick. If you like it, you’ll already know that there’s much more and much better stuff where this came from. As for me, I might actually become a rereader after all.
Do you have a favourite Chandler novel? Mine is The Long Goodbye.
22 thoughts on “Killer in The Rain by Raymond Chandler – Precursor of The Big Sleep – A Post a Day in May”
I think my fav is The Big Sleep, with The Long Good-bye a close. Would you believe I’ve never read this, despite my longstanding love of Chandler’s work. (Like you, I read in my youth, a whole new exhilarating style of prose, unlike anything I had encountered before.) Thanks for reminding me that this early taste of Chandler exists, one to track down at some point.
I will end up rereading all of them. The book I attached contains several other of his short works. I’ll be reading these to, but bearing in mind earlier ones are more formulaic, more pulp.
Wonderful review, Caroline! This one looks very similar to The Big Sleep. I have read only that one and loved it. Chandler’s prose is beautiful and his stylish sentences and descriptions are unbeatable. Loved all the quotes you shared. I want to read more Chandler.
Thank you, Vishy. It’s very similar. I love his prose. Nobody writes like he does. I will reread some of his novels, I’m sure. I think you would love The Long Goodbye. It’s his most literary novel. The novel of a friendship.
Will try to read The Long Goodbye soon. Looking forward to it. Thanks for inspiring me 🙂
I’m looking forward to hear what you think. 🙂
I *haven’t* read Chandler – I’m a Hammett woman – but as this is short I might just be able to give it a go… 😀
I find Hammett pale in comparison. Very good, but not as compassionate as Chandler. This is an excellent intro. I’m curious to find out how you like it.
It is so wonderful to be reading your reviews, Caroline. I have been on the verge of writing you for a week now, and hopefully I will soon, but I just wanted to give you a quick wave now and tell you how much I appreciate you. I also read Chandler and Hammett and all those greats so so many years ago. I’m not sure I am ready to go there again. Feeling constantly pressed for time, not enough time, not enough time and so many important books yet to be read. But for you, THANK YOU.
How very lovely to hear from you, Andrew. I’ve been thinking of you, hoping you were well.
I know exactly what you mean – I always fear I miss out on new discoveries if I go back to what I already know. On the other hand, there’s also a lot of time loss when you pick mediocre new offerings.
I’m very glad you like my project. I hope we get a chance to catch up soon.
Great timing… I just bought The Simple Art of Murder by Raymond Chandler to get an idea on a classic noir detective character I’m writing. Don’t know if there’s one in the book but hopefully the tone will do the job.
The early stories are more pulp than noir but since I’m not familiar with the collection, I’m not sure about the tone and content at all. But there’s an essay that should be very useful.
But I just discoverd this. Looks like it’s the whole Killer in the Rain for free.
Thanks – I book marked it to read sometime.
I hope you’ll like it.
The Big Sleep is the only Chandler I’ve read, and I really enjoyed it so I should read more of him! This sounds like a great place to start getting back into his work.
It is. It really reminded me of how good he is.
I haven’t read Chandler, Caroline, and that quote on giggles and rats has already converted me. I am certainly going for this book. Thank you for this lovely blog and the recommendation. I am not a rereader too. I have been beating myself up, thinking that rereading is a discipline that I need to instil in myself to challenge my own perspectives. For a long while, I have been thinking of reading ‘Fahrenheit 451’. I hope I will get to it someday. These days, I go blank when I am asked who my favourite author is. I used to say Neil Gaiman during the days when I had just started reading. Now, I still struggle to choose one name, but end up sharing a list. 🙂
I’m glad you liked it, Deepika. I love him so much. But I also have a list and Gaiman is among them. There might even be a review of one of his children’s books this week.
I will rather reread a book I appreciate than one I love which may sound odd.
I’ve reviewed Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury also used to me a favourite.
The Big Sleep remains in memory best, but that’s partly due to the film I suspect. After that The Long Goodbye, but similarly there’s very good film versions. Back when they were all fresher in memory I think it was one of the others though – I need to reread. He’s one of the few authors I’ve already reread and plan to again – it’s the pleasure of the prose.
I have this in Kindle form (as it’s part of a rather large short story collection). I slightly regret getting it that way, as if I just had it as a novella I suspect I’d already have read it. Large short story collections always feel a little daunting to me for some reason.
Interesting. I’d love to know which one that was. My first was Farewell my Lovely and that’s the one I remember best, besides The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye. I always to spoil books when rereading them but I think it’s not possible in his case.
I know what you mean about the short story collection. I have this as a single in a special German edition – not translated but issued by a German publisher with a long foreword, explanations and most difficlut words explained. They are anabridged and with a lot of information.
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