Creatures of Darkness: Raymond Chandler, Detective Fiction, and Film Noir by Gene D. Phillips (review)
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That being said, the justification for the book, like the scraps ofHemingway's, is thatYoung disciples can have access to writings hitherto inaccessible and broaden their knowledge of his work and the works he wrote about. His analyses which include "a multi-faceted approach to scholarship called American Studies" often bases the critique on an "author's background and culture" which he saw as "important to understanding a text." Yet, Young does not allow this information to completely overshadow a critical reading as exemplified in "Mother of Us All": "Exactly what happened would not seem to make any enormous difference anyway . What counts more is the truly extraordinary way in which the story — despite the profound awkwardness ofa climax that comes in the opening scene — pervades our culture" (32). In addition to probing questions that matter, Young's style is accessible and readable; even the early essays attest to the frankness, straightforwardness, and depth ofperception that is unique to him. Such lines as "melancholy oflate, the writer was pleased to find himselflaughing" and "Peter Rugg, the missing man, is nearly everywhere missing" keep rhe reader entertained. But it is also engaging in its insight: "I've been chiefly assuming that literature is valuable in that it offers deep and rewarding insights that are not otherwise readily attainable — insights into such things as national character and experience, finally into human nature and ourselves, and life itself" (155). Despite the refreshing style, the disparity of the essays make this book most helpful to scholars already familiar with Young's work who are interested in completing their collections. Gene D. Phillips. Creatures ofDarkness: Raymond Chandler, Detective Fiction, andFilm Noir. Lexington: The University Press ofKentucky, 2000. 31 Ip. A. Mary Murphy Mount Royal College Using Chandler's three presences in film (as one who adapts, is adapted, and who writes originally for the screen) as a frame for his book, Phillips provides a solid starting place for those who wish to become conversantwith detective fiction. His stated purpose is "to examine the relationship of film and fiction as reflected in the screen versions of the work of one novelist" (xxiii), but he very shortly finds himselfunable to remain within those self-described parameters — and, for rhe most part, thankfully so. The jacket blurb for this book calls it "a comprehensive introduction" to Raymond Chandler, and that is exactly what it is: an introduction . Readers will find here some interesting biographical bits — about Chandler SPRING 2001 + ROCKY MOUNTAIN REVIEW * 131 and others — and a mix ofdefinitive statements about die genre along with disappointments in the form of flawed assumptions and outright errors. The book contains bits of many things, thoroughly handling none, but offering a number ofresearch possibilities for those who are inclined to embark on their own investigations . One of the most useful aspects of this book is its identification of resources, earmarked by signpost adjectives for those who would read further. Phillips points to such publications as Maugham's "influential essay on detective stories" (5), Auden's "important essay on detective fiction" (5), Schrader's "influential [essay] on film noir" (J), Frank's "seminal essay on film noir" (J), Chandler's own "essays and letters about his work" (156), and Highsmith's Phtting and Writing Suspense Fiction (216). The listing, along with the appended selected bibliography and filmography, provides a sturdy foundation for both the self-taught and those who would teach courses in detective fiction. Equally beneficial are Phillips' succinct theoretical statements which seem made to clarify and order the superfluity of information about Chandler-influenced films. Certainly, they are tailor made as the basis for discussion: "Murder, My Sweet is quite simply unforgettable and remains the definitive screen adaptation ofthe book" (47), "the 1946 BigSUep [is] a historically and aesthetically important motion picture" (71), "the best ofthese films— DoubUIndemnity, The BigSUep, and Murder, My Sweet— deserve to rank as screen classics, and some others, such as TheBlueDahlia, The Lady in the Lake, and Strangers on a Train, are not far behind" (247). For those uninclined to formal study, the list serves as a basic must-see requirement for cultural literacy. However, the book has some lapses. Phillips points out in his...


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