Monday, March 21, 2011

Hardboiled Haiku #1

Today I start a new feature. Hoping it will appear at least once a month from now on. Reviews of hardboiled private eye novels done entirely in the Japanese verse form of haiku.

Read The High Window.
This plot less convoluted
Than most of Chandler.

Marlowe is hired
By the old lady Murdock
To find her son's wife.

Rare coin is stolen.
It's called the Brasher Dubloon -
Worth a chunk of change.

Two men are murdered.
Marlowe finds both their bodies.
Just his lot in life.

Chandler's good tough stuff:
Guns and blondes and hulking goons,
Marlowe cracking wise.

My favorite bits?
Chandler's use of similes.
Get a load of these:

It was a tight crackling voice, like someone tiptoeing across a lot of eggshells.

[T]he usual distorting mirror...made me look like a two-time loser sneaking home from a reefer party.

From thirty feet away she looked like a lot of class. From ten feet away she looked like something made to be seen from thirty feet away.

Her hair was as artifical as a night club lounge.

...a sound came out of him like a convalescent rooster learning to crow again after a long illness.

She had eyes like strange sins.

Favorites - Round Two
Chandler's clever metaphors
Try these on for size:

"You milk easy. But you give pretty thin milk

Fuzz grew out of his ears, far enough to catch a moth.

You could just manage to walk on the carpet without waders.

The room was painted egg-yolk yellow. All it needed was a few fat spiders painted on the yellow to be anybody's bilious attack.

She had the utterly disdainful expression of a dame who makes her dates by long distance.
Example the third:
How about this paragraph?
(I just can't resist)

Out of the apartment houses come women who should be young but have faces like stale beer; men with pulled down hats and quick eyes that look the street over behind the cupped hand that shields the match flame; worn intellectuals with cigarette coughs and no money in the bank; fly cops with granite faces and unwavering eyes; cokies and coke peddlers; people who look like nothing in particular and know it; and once in a while even men that actually go to work.  But they come out early, when the wide cracked sidewalks are empty and still have dew on them.
That's enough of that.
I'm too tired of counting
All these syllables.


  1. Oh, John, I love it! Great new feature! Gotta love those similes.

  2. Too funny. And oh how I wish I'd thought up the 30 foot/10 foot remark-it's sublime.

  3. Yeah, that 30 foot remark says it all. It's cruel, but it's right on the money. I love the haiku feature, John. HA!

    I also like this book very much. IT's one of my Chandler favorites along with LADY IN THE LAKE and FAREWELL MY LOVELY.

    I am one of the few who loved George Montgomery as Philip Marlowe, by the way. I also loved the film, THE BRASHER DOUBLOON. Go figure.

  4. Lake and Lovely and Doubloon
    Together send me into
    A hardboiled swoon