She Could Have Made the Pope Quiver

For Raymond Chandler’s birthday, here are four openings to Chandler-like novels I have written. “The Fated Heart” won second place in the Library of America’s nation-wide “Write Like Raymond Chandler” contest.

The Fated Heart

   The first time I laid eyes on Laura Farr she was doing the floor show at the Largo Club, a joint Eddie Donegal owned out on Sorrento.

She was beautiful, no doubt about that–  flashing eyes, a swirl of dark hair, a voice filled with want–  and she moved with the svelte assurance of power and experience. She could have made the Pope quiver.

Word was that she belonged to Donegal, who was leaning against the bar next to me, but from what I could see of Eddie’s face that night it looked like it was the other way around. And, in a funny way, I turned out to  be right.


She stood in the door of the Carlisle Hotel, under the porte-cochere, as though she were expecting someone.  She wasn’t beautiful exactly, not unless you like them tall and slender, with loose chestnut hair, fine features, and the glow of rose on their cheeks.  It’s a matter of taste, I suppose.

 As I stepped past her up the stair, she turned and asked,   “Sir, do you have the time?” 

And, brother,  I had all the time in the world.



                                                                          LOST ANGEL

She was all in yellow,  leaning against a signpost marking the intersection of Central and Sunset. She was obviously and elegantly drunk, at eight o’clock in the morning, but she looked pretty as a goldfinch against the tired old pavements of Los Angeles.

I’d been hired to find her – a small thing for me, but a big one for her angry husband, and it looked like this one was going to be easy. 

It wasn’t, though. They never are.


It had been raining for days in Los Angeles, a slow dispiriting rain that was flooding the city and bringing mudslides to the hills.  It didn’t bother me much, since it gave me plenty of time to dangle my feet and catch up on my thinking, which at that point consisted mostly of trying to figure out how to put a .45 slug into Adolf Hitler’s head and how the hell the St. Louis Browns had made it to the World Series.

I hadn’t made much progress on either question when a small elegantly dressed man stepped through the door, politely drew a small revolver from his rain-spattered coat, and asked, “You are Mr. Marlowe, are you not?” 

I didn’t have a good answer for that one either.