You dared to speak ill of Agatha Christie AND Raymond Chandler. Have their fans sent any hate mail? I’m going to watch the noir movies you mention - The Big Sleep, The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Maltese Falcon - to see what you were seeing about scenes from the books and films that make no sense. Were you surprised, disappointed and/or frustrated to find these two greats were, well, underwhelming? Why do you think they are considered such greats if they are not all that, well, great?
I don’t think I spoke ill of Dame Agatha. She had a genius for clever plots, she was a fine storyteller and she was historically important and immensely successful. What I said was that her work was inevitably uneven, given that she wrote more than 60 novels. I admire novels like The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and And Then There Were None, but I also read one of her early novels, Peril at End House, picked at random, and thought it was fluff.
Chandler was a gifted writer, probably the most lyrical of the major crime writers. He was more influenced by Fitzgerald than by Hemingway (and, as I noted, took some cheap shots at Fitzgerald in The Long Goodbye). He often wrote truly beautiful scenes and descriptions.
But two things bother me about Chandler. First, as is pretty generally recognized, his plots are rambling at best and incoherent at worst. I quote, for example, Howard Hawks, who directed the movie version of The Big Sleep, as saying he never did understand what was going on the in book and finally decided it didn’t matter. And there’s the famous story of Hawks (and William Faulkner, one of the screenwriters) sending Chandler a telegram asking who killed the chauffeur and he wired back: “No idea.”
You can read Chandler for the writing, for the mood, for the portrait of Los Angeles, but you’ll have a problem if you’re looking for a plot that makes much sense. The other problem is that he was amazingly racist and homophobic, and was pretty nasty toward women, too. I cite many examples, such as the opening scene in Farewell, My Lovely, when he ridicules various black people, including the young man he repeatedly calls “it” rather than “him.”
His defenders say, “Oh, that just reflects the times,” but I don’t think that’s good enough. You can find touches of racism and homophobia in Hemingway and Fitzgerald, but they don’t beat up on blacks and gays, and mop the floor with them, and laugh at them. Chandler was an intelligent man but also a rather nasty man at times, and the nastiness made it hard for me to enjoy his books when I went back and reread them. But was he a good writer? Sure. Was he historically important? Sure. Did he have a big influence on later writers? Sure. But he needed a good editor.