Raymond Chandler began writing late in life and peaked early in his career, never surpassing his last couple of pulp stories and first novel, The Big Sleep. From self-mocking title through muted farewell, 1939’s ‘Trouble Is My Business’ delivers quintessence of Chandler in a compact package. At the moment, though, I’m even more drawn to 1938’s ‘Red Wind’, partly because it holds the Chandler line I recite most often (“Just another four-flusher”), and partly because I can excerpt its opening and closing paragraphs without spoilers:
There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.
They made little splashes and the seagulls rose off the water and swooped at the splashes.
Originally published in Dime Detective, 1938, and frequently reprinted