There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one 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.
That’s the opening to Raymond Chandler’s “Red Wind“, a story published 78 years ago, back in 1938. I dug it up again for the opening quote and (re)discovered that it is very hard to stop reading at the opening paragraph.
Chandler wrote a lot of things worth reading, but for a quick like summary I’ll mention his short story “The King in Yellow“–no relation whatsoever to the play I usually geek about, but the title always makes me grin. He also wrote the essay “The Art of Murder“, which is an interesting read, as well as the source of the oft-quoted line “[D]own these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.”