Sunday, December 21, 2008

Goldfish by Raymond Chandler

Goldfish by Raymond Chandler
Short Story in "Trouble is My Business"

Pocket Book 2823

"Goldfish" is one of of my favorite Chandler short stories. Originally published in Black Mask in 1936, it featured a P.I. named Carmady. Almost all of Raymond Chandler's short stories were written before he created Marlowe, but these early P.I. characters are essentially the same L.A. dick -Philip Marlowe. You'll likely find Philip Marlowe as the P.I. (not Carmady) in most collections containing this story. That is the case in the four stories in this edition of "Trouble is My Business." (1957)

"I wasn't doing any work that day, just catching up on my foot-dangling." (opening line in "Goldfish")

In "Goldfish," Marlowe gets a tip on the location of the "Leander pearls." A guy by the name of Wally Sype heisted the gems 19 years earlier and he did his time without telling anyone where he stashed them. Sype was paroled and his location is unknown. The insurance company still has a $25,000 reward out on the pearls, so Marlowe looks into it. He finds Sype's old Leavenworth cellmate dead, after being tortured with a hot iron. And then Marlowe ends up meeting the two who performed the sadistic act. One is a shyster lawyer, but the one to watch out for is the cold-blood dame that goes by the name of Carol Donovan. They are also on the trail of the pearls, and after slapping their guns and giving Marlowe a "mickey," the two set out thinking they have the upper hand. But Marlowe unknowingly has the key and that is the word "goldfish."

Creative as hell, with all the wonderful Chandler descriptive elements in it. Murder, complex characters, sarcastic tough guy spilling out memorable dialogue, and a fine ending with Sype's wife trying to pull a fast one on the famous detective. A bonus is you get to meet the heartless Carol Donovan, a memorable character in the story. Hey, you can only keep reading Chandler's brilliant novels for so long. Hit the short stories once in a while, you will be rewarded.

"Red Wind" is also in this paperback. Besides having that marvelously written opening paragraph, (one of the best in any mystery short story) - the ending with Marlowe at the edge of the ocean is one of Chandler's most compassionate and sentimental. And the reference of the hot wind throughout this blackmail/murder story, has its own effect on each character and sets the mood throughout the story. The exchanges between Marlowe and the cop named Copernik are outstanding, with wiseass Marlowe playing the cop for a sucker. "Red Wind" was first published in Dime Detective Magazine in 1938, originally the P.I. was called John Dalmas. A great hardboiled read, one of Chandler's best.

The four "Marlowe" stories in this paperback:
"Trouble is My Business"
"Finger Man"
"Red Wind"

These four stories were published by Houghton Mifflin earlier in "The Simple Art of Murder,"(1950) which contained a total of 12 short works. A few years later, Pocket Books put together three paperbacks containing four short stories each from "The Simple Art of Murder." All are Marlowe stories and copies can still be found easily. I enjoy them all, how can you not.


David Cranmer said...

I agree that no matter what the name of the character, it's still Marlowe... I enjoy all these stories.

Anonymous said...

Raymond Chandler is definitely my favorite detective story writer. Ross Macdonald and Dashiell Hammett are close also. By the way, eleven of the short stories are available on dvd starring Powers Boothe as Marlowe. I find it interesting to read the story and then compare the film version. has the set but the cheapest is a 3 dvd set available for only $18.95 from

August West said...

Thanks for the tip. Great price and If I remember right this was a fine HBO series. I also liked the OTR episode of "Red Wind" from "The Adventures of Philip Marlowe." It follows the story fairly well, of course it doesn't capture the atmosphere you get through the admirable lines of Chandler's hardboiled prose.

You can listen here:

Anonymous said...

There's an audio version of Red Wind which is read by Elliot Gould.
Very well performed, and it's really shocking to me how much more I can get out of good prose when it is read aloud. It's almost as if reading along silently to myself makes me jaded to an author's prose skills. Hearing Chandler read well is a mighty fine experience, and I listened through Red Wind three times in my car before I decided I better stop.

John Hocking

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