BTT: grocery stores & symphony orchestras

I know, it’s not even Thursday, but when I came across this question I felt like I just had to answer it: If you could write a book, what would it be about, and why?

Well. This is kind of weird, but I have always wanted to write a cozy murder mystery set either in a grocery store or a symphony orchestra. Either one, I think, would be hilariously fun to write. The reason this is weird is because I don’t read a whole lot of cozy mysteries. I’m not that interested in finding out whodunit. But I do like the ones that give you a little window into another culture, kind of like some episodes of CSI. And oh my goodness you could have so much fun with a grocery store! Or a symphony orchestra! You could have rivalry, say, between the produce and deli departments, or the cashiers & baggers. And the new store manager would be the prime suspect. Or you could portray the differences between the first and second violin sections, who unite against the oboes who think they’re boss because the orchestra tunes to them, you know? And the prime suspect would be the guy who failed the audition… or the new assistant conductor… or perhaps the crazy harp player…

Like every other bookworm in the world (I assume) I have tried to write. A lot. I love to create characters & settings, and I love to craft sentences. But I am always stumped by plot. I create these characters and I have no idea what to do with them. I have a feeling that writing a mystery would kinda solve that problem, because with a mystery you would have to start with the plot. You would have to know where it’s going — who did it — before you start.

Hmmm, I think I know how I’ll be spending the rest of this day…

Raymond Chandler: The High Window

Hard-boiled detective novels practically BEG to be parodied, don’t they? More than any other genre, perhaps. And once you’ve seen a parody it’s almost impossible to take the real thing seriously any more.

Raymond Chandler, however, is worth the effort of taking seriously. You have to try to read with fresh eyes though. Don’t think about Tracer Bullet or any of the other parodies you’ve seen. Imagine you’ve never read, or even heard of, anything like it before. If you can get yourself into that mindset Chandler will blow you away. The Big Sleep, which I read earlier this year, was amazing. And The High Window, which I read earlier this week, was even more so.

It’s not the plot. I’m not really a plot person. Inconsistencies and holes have to be GIGANTIC for me to notice them, or care. Yes, the stories were a bit confusing, especially The Big Sleep. Supposedly even Raymond Chandler himself didn’t know who killed one of the characters. However, it doesn’t really matter. Because the writing is fabulous. Example:

The expression of [her] face lacked something. Once the something might have been called breeding, but these days I didn’t know what to call it. The face looked too wise and too guarded for its age. Too many passes had been made at it and it had grown a little too smart in dodging them. And behind this expression of wiseness there was the look of simplicity of the little girl who still believes in Santa Claus.

Most all of the female characters I have encountered thus far are objectified in some way, and it would definitely feel sexist, except that the male characters are treated the same. Raymond Chandler seems like a man who was disgusted with the human race, not women in particular. However, not irredeemably disgusted. There are a few “good” characters sprinkled in among the baddies. Marlowe himself is fundamentally decent and has a well-developed sense of honor. Perhaps that’s why sentences like “Her hair was as artificial as a night club lobby” feel poignant rather than goofy.

Raymond Chandler’s universe is not a place I would want to live. But it is wonderful to visit, and I definitely plan to come again.