IF YOU were compiling a dictionary of quotations, maxims and aphorisms for writers, this collection would be a good place to start - and possibly finish. Take Chandler on plagiarism: "One must bear in mind that they can't steal your style, if you have one. They can only as a rule steal your faults." Riled by critics who damned his first novel as too hardboiled and its successor as not hardboiled enough, he coined a motto that many authors would wish they could live by: "From now on, if I make mistakes, as no doubt I shall, they will not be made in a futile attempt to avoid making mistakes."
Raymond Chandler was an insomniac who spent the hours of darkness writing beautifully crafted letters to friends, readers, people in publishing and fellow writers such as Maugham, Perelman and Fleming. He seems to have had no close friends other than his correspondents and his wife, and it's clear that fiction - reading it, writing it and analysing it - was the most important thing in his. On non- literary matters, he was a man of strong opinions, not very strongly held.
From early on, Chandler had a sharp idea of what was wrong with modern fiction and of the required remedies: "To acquire delicacy without losing power, that's the problem," he told his publisher in 1939. By the time of his death, 20 years later, it was a problem he had solved with such force that the best fiction today, in all genres, is still produced according to the methods and principles he painstakingly developed.
All around he saw "fundamental dishonesty in the matter of character and motivation" and writers "for whom a laborious and fizzled wisecrack is better than a simple truth". On the one hand, he was disgusted by writers of the "faux naif type", not because "they write about dirty things, but because they do it in a dirty way. Nothing hard and clean and cold and ventilated". They wrote for a reading public "intellectually adolescent at best", and Chandler despised them for their lack of ambition - in effect, their condescension. At the same time, he was contemptuous of intellectuals for whom "a book can't be any good if it makes you want to read it. …