I can never resist the siren call of Raymond Chandler. In my opinion, his work defines the noir genre of mysteries. It just doesn’t get any better. Trouble is My Business is a collection of four short stories – Trouble is My Business, Finger Man, Goldfish, and Red Wind – that are classic Chandler. Rife with 50s slang and the most stripped-down descriptions imaginable, each is a the literary equivalent of a shot of scotch. The kind that leaves you feeling like you’ve had a mouthful of campfire smoke. Descriptions like “…one of those mustaches that get stuck under your fingernail,” (12) “Dead as a pickled walnut,” (144) and “…a mixed quartet tore what was left of the night into small strips and did what they could to make the strips miserable,” (194) pepper the stories liberally. Chandler peels away every iota that isn’t vital to the plot, buffs the remainder on his sleeve and sends it out into the world in all its dim, scruffy glory. That’s one of the things about his writing which really appeals to me, but if you prefer opulent, lush sentences and pages of descriptions and details leaking out of the binding when you tilt the book sideways then Chandler may not be for you. I’d still encourage you to read at least one of his stories – especially if you’re a mystery buff or a fan of works set in the WWII era -because he defines a genre and sometimes works like that are famous for a reason. Go take one of his stories out from a library. It’ll be fun. If nothing else you can spend an afternoon googling slang – or maybe ask your local octogenarian? and impressing your friends with your new vocabulary. Educational and fun, that’s Chandler.
Content warnings: (thankfully infrequent) use of racial slurs, and the standard dated terminology used for minorities in the 50s. Some violence, but overall very minimal descriptions of gore and suffering. If you like mysteries but have a tough time with bloodshed Chandler’s stories might be just what you’re looking for.