“Class is a thing that has a way of dissolving rapidly in alcohol.” (183)
Turn of phrase is my favourite thing about Chandler. He’s got the best quips. The 30’s slang is melting my brain though. Readers unfamiliar with that particular lingo may wish to snag some sort of urban dictionary to help them puzzle through some of the more impenetrable sentences. From time to time I wasn’t sure what emotion a character was supposed to be communicating. Which made following the plot more difficult. Is this suspect angrily protesting their innocence? Or arrogantly brushing away an accusation? It’s a lot of “nod’s as good as a wink to a blind bat” kind of banter, only this time both conversants are using it and you’re supposed to follow the conversation anyways. Conversations centering around all those Noir classics: blackmail, murder, and tall blond lipsticked dames. White faces, pinched lips. Ice-cold hearts. Coshes. Belly guns. Marlowe has a gun pulled on him for his sassy attitude numerous times in The High Window. Mrs. Elizabeth Bright Murdock hires Marlowe to delicately accomplish two things for her: return her rare and valuable Brasher Doubloon, and secure for her adult son an uncontested divorce from his estranged wife Leslie Murdock, whom the elder Mrs. Murdock suspects has stolen the coin. In his inimitable style Marlowe fails to accomplish either of these things and pisses everyone off doing it. He also stumbles across several murders. So there’s violence here, which is to be expected. Roughly on par with a newspaper article about a murder; enough description to set the scene but not so much that it gets…splashy. Chandler also tucks in a couple of scenes of domestic abuse, and mentions of suicide and sexual assault. To top that off, the language in this book (aside from the slang, I mean) reflects the societal attitudes towards women and POC of that era. If you’ve been reading a bunch of books published from around or before then it might not be too noticeable, but if you’re coming to The High Window after reading more contemporary novels the host of slurs and sexist attitudes is jarring. I think his other books were better, but I could be remembering wrong. And I wouldn’t judge anyone who avoided Chandler’s books because of it. Maybe there’s a modern writer who pens not-too-gruesome Noir mysteries with a hard-boiled private eye, but leaves out the terms we now know are wrong. If I find one, I’ll let you know. You’ll see my review here.