|An iconic novel became an icon film -- both masterpieces|
“I’m not Sherlock Holmes or Philo Vance.” So says Philip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, which I had the pleasure of re-reading recently.
Well, no s**t, Sherlock!
On the surface, Holmes and the two-fisted, wise-cracking Marlowe would seem to have little in common except the fact that they are both unofficial detectives and they both smoke pipes. In fact, Chandler disdained what he called the British school of mystery represented by Holmes.
But look beneath the surface:
· Holmes is primarily an urban creature, one who actually finds the countryside full of horrors.
· He’s a loner, often cutting even Watson out of the loop.
· He’s unmarried.
· He often operates outside the law – by committing burglary or letting the villain flee.
· He bucks authority, even royalty.
· He can’t be bought.
Those are all part of the description of the hard-boiled private eye of fiction.
In the famous closing paragraphs of his classic essay on “The Simple Art of Murder,” Chandler wrote:
“But 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.”
Such a man was Sherlock Holmes.