Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Raymond Chandler, fully Raymond Thornton Chandler

American Fiction Author,Novelist and Screenwriter

"If you believe in an ideal, you don't own you, it owns you."

"A few locks of dry, white hair clung to his scalp, like wildflowers fighting for life on a bare rock."

"A good story cannot be devised; it has to be distilled."

"A good title is the title of a successful book."

"A man who drinks too much on occasion is still the same man as he was sober. An alcoholic, a real alcoholic, is not the same man at all. You can't predict anything about him for sure except that he will be someone you never met before."

"A nice state of affairs when a man has to indulge his vices by proxy."

"A really good detective never gets married."

"A writer who is afraid to overreach himself is as useless as a general who is afraid to be wrong."

"Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it."

"Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl's clothes off."

"All language begins with speech, and the speech of common men at that, but when it develops to the point of becoming a literary medium it only looks like speech."

"All men who read escape from something else into what lies behind the printed page; the quality of the dream may be argued, but its release has become a functional necessity."

"An age which is incapable of poetry is incapable of any kind of literature except the cleverness of a decadence."

"And lastly there is the gorgeous show piece who will outlast three kingpin racketeers and then marry a couple of millionaires at a million a head and end up with a pale rose villa at Cap d"

"Any man who can write a page of living prose adds something to our life, and the man who can, as I can, is surely the last to resent someone who can do it even better. An artist cannot deny art, nor would he want to. A lover cannot deny love."

"As honest as you can expect a man to be in a world where its going out of style."

"As it is she will probably turn out to be one of these acid-faced virgins that sit behind little desks in public libraries and stamp dates in books."

"At least half the mystery novels published violate the law that the solution, once revealed, must seem to be inevitable."

"By the way, would you convey my compliments to the purist who reads your proofs and tell him or her that I write in a sort of broken-down patois which is something like the way a Swiss-waiter talks, and that when I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will remain split, and when I interrupt the velvety smoothness of my more or less literate syntax with a few sudden words of barroom vernacular, this is done with the eyes wide open and the mind relaxed and attentive. The method may not be perfect, but it is all I have."

"California, the department store state."

"Chess is as elaborate a waste of human intelligence as you can find outside an advertising agency."

"Common sense always speaks too late. Common sense is the guy who tells you ought to have had your brakes relined last week before you smashed a front end this week. Common sense is the Monday morning quarterback who could have won the ball game if he had been on the team. But he never is. He's high up in the stands with a flask on his hip. Common sense is the little man in a gray suit who never makes a mistake in addition. But it's always somebody else's money he's adding up."

"Dead men are heavier than broken hearts."

"Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.... He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world."

"Even on Central Avenue, not the quietest dressed street in the world, he looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food."

"Everything a writer learns about the art or craft of fiction takes just a little away from his need or desire to write at all. In the end he knows all the tricks and has nothing to say"

"Everything written with vitality expresses that vitality: there are no dull subjects, only dull minds."

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

"Good critical writing is measured by the perception and evaluation of the subject; bad critical writing by the necessity of maintaining the professional standing of the critic."

"Hammett gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse; and with the means at hand, not hand-wrought dueling pistols, curare, and tropical fish."

"Hammett was the ace performer.... He is said to have lacked heart; yet the story he himself thought the most of [The Glass Key] is the record of a man's devotion to a friend. He was spare, frugal, hard-boiled, but he did over and over again what only the best writers can ever do at all. He wrote scenes that seemed never to have been written before."

"He didn't curl his lip because it had been curled when he came in."

"He had a battered face that looked as if it had been hit by everything but the bucket of a dragline. It was scarred, flattened, thickened, checkered, and welted. It was a face that had nothing to fear. Everything had been done to it that anybody could think of."

"He had a heart as big as one of Mae West's hips."

"He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man's money dishonestly and no man's insolence without due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks -- that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness."

"He looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food."

"He snorted and hit me in the solar plexus. I bent over and took hold of the room with both hands and spun it. When I had it nicely spinning I gave it a full swing and hit myself on the back of the head with the floor."

"He was a guy who talked with commas, like a heavy novel. Over the phone anyway."

"He will take no man"

"Her eyes rounded. She was puzzled. She was thinking. I could see, even on that short acquaintance, that thinking was always going to be a bother for her."

"Hollywood is wonderful. Anyone who doesn't like it is either crazy or sober."

"Hollywood's] idea of "production value" is spending a million dollars dressing up a story that any good writer would throw away. Its vision of the rewarding movie is a vehicle for some glamor-puss with two expressions and eighteen changes of costume, or for some male idol of the muddled millions with a permanent hangover, six worn-out acting tricks, the build of a lifeguard, and the mentality of a chicken-strangler."

"However top lofty and idealistic a man may be, he can always rationalize his right to earn money."

"I am... by tradition and long study a complete snob. P. Marlowe and I do not despise the upper classes because they take baths and have money; we despise them because they are phony."

"I been shaking two nickels together for a month, trying to get them to mate."

"I belonged in Idle Valley like a pearl onion on a banana split."

"I bent over and took hold of the room with both hands and spun it. When I had it nicely spinning I gave it a full swing and hit myself on the back of the head with the floor."

"I do a great deal of research - particularly in the apartments of tall blondes."

"I don't mind if you don't like my manners. They're pretty bad. I grieve over them during the long winter evenings. But don't waste your time trying to cross-examine me."

"I don't mind your showing me your legs. They're very swell legs and it's a pleasure to make their acquaintance. I don't mind if you don't like my manners. They're pretty bad. I grieve over them during the long winter nights."