Friday, August 21, 2009

Daylight Noir: Raymond Chandler's Imagined City by Catherine Corman

I love black-and-white photographs. I think they capture a mood, an atmosphere, better than colored photographs. A city, a building, a setting comes to life for me in the details of a black-and-white photo. Catherine Corman intended to bring Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles to life in Daylight Noir: Raymond Chandler's Imagined City.

Mystery author Betty Webb, in discussing noir said, "The Internet description of noir describes a crime drama, emphasizing moral ambiguity. It's in black-and-white." That definition works for Raymond Chandler's detective, Philip Marlowe, and for these photographs. Corman, the photographer, pairs her pictures with quotes from Chandler's books. In the preface, Jonathan Lethem describes the "scenes of love, strife, and murder that fill Chandler's books." He discusses Catherine Corman's "supremely evocative catalogue of haunted places."

In her introduction, Corman says, "Raymond Chandler was called the epic poet of Los Angeles. He kept the corruption and violence of the city simmering just beneath a surface populated by reclusive millionaires, femmes fatales, secretive bell hops, suspect chauffeurs, and one honest man, private detective Philip Marlowe."

There's a loneliness, a quietness, in these pictures. Black-and-white evokes crime and suspicion so much better than colored photos. The darkness hovers in every photo. Corman walks the reader through Chandler's Los Angeles, location by location, beginning with the General Sternwood residence. The Sternwood oil fields, the Lido pier, Stillwood Crescent Drive. Each photo is connected to Chandler and Marlowe. They are secretive, shadowy pictures. Hotels, clubs and city halls all seem tinged with corruption and darkness in a black-and-white photo. Was this the Los Angeles that Chandler knew, that he saw in his Philip Marlowe stories?

Catherine Corman doesn't need night to allow Chandler's Los Angeles to feel haunted. Her Daylight Noir: Raymond Chandler's Imagined City, brings the shadows and moods of his stories to life.

Daylight Noir: Raymond Chandler's Imagined City by Catherine Corman. Charta, ©2009. ISBN 9788881587247 (paperback), 128p.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

What a cool idea! I love the thought of having edgy black and whites of Chandler's settings paired with quotes from his books. I'll have to find this one.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Lesa said...

Thanks, Elizabeth. Morning must be your computer time before you start writng. You're always the first one to comment, and I appreciate it. Yes, you might want to find this book.

Anonymous said...

Hey, doll, I like your way with words...Here's a few from that scribbler you seem to like...

-Jack Shepard, PI

"When I got home I mixed a stiff one and stood by the open window in the living room and sipped it and listened to the groundswell of the traffic on Laurel Canyon Boulevard and looked at the glare of the big angry city hanging over the shoulder of the hills through which the boulevard had been cut. Far off the banshee wail of police and fire sirens rose and fell. Twenty-four hours a day somebody is running, somebody else is trying to catch him. Out there in the night of a thousand crimes people were dying, being maimed, cut by flying glass, crushed against steering wheels or under heavy tires. People were being beaten, robbed, strangled, raped, and murdered. People were hungry, sick, bored, desperate with loneliness or remorse or fear, angry, cruel, feverish, shaken by sobs. A city no worse than the others, a city rich and vigorous and full of pride, a city lost and beaten and full of emptiness."

Raymond Chandler
The Long Goodbye

Lesa said...

Be still my heart! Jack Shepard, himself, in the, well, not flesh, in the spirit. Does Penelope know you're calling other bookwomen doll? Thanks for stopping by, Jack, with a quote that fits Los Angeles, and the book.

Most of all, thanks for stopping by, Jack! I've always loved your turn of phrase. (And, I think you're pretty hot, for a ghost.)