Hi there. I’m a creative writer focusing on my first collection of short stories. As part of that mission, I’m digesting as many short stories as I can lay my time on.
I’ll craft a brief article about a short story I enjoy each week, looking specifically at three elements.
The Finger Man (1934) — Raymond Chandler
Synopsis: Detective Philip Marlowe is in the frame for murder after giving evidence in a high court corruption case; he must solve the mystery of the death to keep himself out of jail.
Story Home: Raymond Chandler collections
Raymond Chandler (1888–1959)
Chandler is a valuable case study for writers. He started at 44 after being fired from an oil company for drunk and disorderly behaviour. Following this, he completely transformed his life and became a writer. The change involved killing the drinking, returning to his wife and moving out of town to live like a hermit and learn his trade.
Chandler was no stranger to starting his career afresh. He threw himself into learning by studying classics, examining and rewriting published stories to understand the structure and learn how to improve on what had gone before.
The result was a new, character-based take on the detective genre. I’m interested in looking at an early and a late Chandler story to compare notes. The Finger Man was the third story he published and the first introduction to Philip Marlowe, the hard-worn detective that would remain a companion throughout his later novels.
Tom Hiney, one of his biographers, listed The Finger Man as Chandler’s first memorable short story. At 11 chapters, it may not count as a short story today, but there’s still plenty to apply to today’s writing.
1 — An Enduring Protagonist
Chandler first published The Finger Man in the Black Mask detective serial magazine in 1934, and it was his first foray into first-person fiction writing. At the time of publication, it was…