If It Was Good Enough For Raymond Chandler!


Roger and Suzanne Mysteries

If it was good enough for Raymond Chandler, considered by many to be the father of the contemporary private detective novel, it should certainly be good enough for me. Chandler’s muse apparently ran out of gas when he was writing for the pulp thriller magazines, long before he wrote any of the now classic novels that made him famous, and are still popular. To use his word, he “cannibalized” the short stories to create his novels. English professors and computers can demonstrate the transfer of entire scenes, characters, and words from his short stories to his books---“The Big Sleep”, “The Lady in the Lake”, “Farewell, My Lovely”, and “The High Window”. The process Chandler used for cannibalization is described in detail by Philip Durham in the preface to a collection of Chandler’s short stories entitled “The Killer in the Rain” [Ballantine Books, New York, 1964].

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

For example, when Chandler wrote “The Big Sleep”, his short story “The Curtain” became chapters 1-3, 20, and 27-32. Another of his short stories entitled “Killer in the Rain” became chapters 4, 6-10, and 12-16. Bits and pieces were taken from two more of his short stories, “Mandarin’s Jade” and “Finger Man”. All of these chapters were expanded for the novel. Eleven more chapters were newly created for “The Big Sleep” to link the two previous short stories together. In retrospect, arguably the most important and influential author in the history of the private detective genre would never have been known to his millions of readers had he not recycled and reused his material from the long-lost pulp magazines of the 1930s. How’s that for early environmentalism?

The Empanada Affair

I found myself with exactly the opposite problem. My first novel, “The Empanada Affair”, reads in retrospect a lot (too much for my current taste) like a first novel. At least, that’s my reaction when I re-read it now. I was learning how to write as I wrote it, and it shows. It combines several genres---mystery, travel, food, wines, and sexual situations/romance. At the time it was originally written more than four years ago, I fantasized about selling a lot of books to five separate markets, and having a lot more commercial success than if the only interested would-be readers had to come from a single genre.

Five Quickies for Roger and Suzanne by Jerold Last

Since then I’ve written six more novels and experimented with short stories and novellas. I seem to be most comfortable writing full-length mystery novels that focus on plot, action, and mystery, and take place in interesting locales. My wife suggested putting some of these shorter stories together into an anthology. As the pieces of an anthology came together (several short stories and a novelette), we felt something was lacking. Elaine suggested rounding the book out with a new “original” long novella constructed by re-editing “The Empanada Affair” to become a more conventional mystery story set in an exotic locale. The new anthology is available on Amazon KDP entitled “Five Quickies for Roger and Suzanne”.

Shortening and Removing Whole Chapters

Unlike Chandler’s predicament, in my case I had to shorten the original novel by removing whole chapters, shortening others, and focusing on the mystery by removing all of the gratuitous sex scenes, at least some of the travelogue, and most of the foodie episodes. And, the resulting novella had to read coherently when I finished. Thus, I found myself reversing the process that Chandler had used so successfully. I was tasking myself to reorganize and reduce the original full-length novel, chapter by chapter, to create one or more new novellas from it.

So, I went back to the novel version of “The Empanada Affair” and started cutting and unpasting, as well as rewriting the remaining sections to bridge the resultant gaps. The later chapters (more than a third of the original book), which took place in Los Angeles, came out almost in their entirety. The graphic sex scenes, and all the references to them that I could find, were removed. I kept the meals that were culturally relevant to the specific region of South America that Roger and Suzanne visited. Then I discarded the rest of the “foodie” scenes, which were originally included to give my characters a place to sit down and discuss the case and to attract hungry gourmet readers to the novel. Unless the locale specifically included key scenes that significantly advanced the plot, out went a good deal of the tourist travel through the Andes Mountains and elsewhere.

The Cannibalized Novella The Empanada Affair

The biggest remaining problem was pulling what was left of the story together so it would read as a coherent whole. You, dear readers, will have to decide how well I succeeded in accomplishing this task. The result is a novella of about 33,000 words, about half the length of the original book. I think the new version reads much better, and a whole lot faster, than the previous 63,025-word novel of the same name. Who knows, I may decide to cannibalize parts of the remaining half of the original novel for another novella (or shorter story) to be written some time in the future?

The cannibalized novella is now one of five stories in the anthology, and retains the name, “The Empanada Affair”. The original novel has ceased to exist on Amazon, but I’ve kept it available on Smashwords and its Premium Catalogue vendors. That way, some obscure scholar writing a Master’s thesis will still be able to compare my first novel to my other works when they all become classics in the genre!

To see more of Jerold Last's work, click the link to his website or scroll down to the bottom of the page to view his member details Visit Roger and Suzanne Mysteries.

Images used for the story are
Visit Lloyd Nolan Martin Kane Private_Eye on wikimedia.org

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If it was good enough for Raymond Chandler, considered by many to be the father of the contemporary private detective novel, it should certainly be good enough for me. Chandler’s muse apparently ran out of gas when he...

Five Quickies For Roger And Suzanne by Jerold Last

“Five Quickies for Suzanne and Roger” is an anthology of shorter stories featuring characters from the popular South American mystery series of novels. In this novellength collection, Roger solves cases in Montevideo, Uruguay; Fortaleza, Brazil; and Los Angeles, California in a novella, a novelette, and three short storiesfive quickies. Three obvious murder victims, two additional dead bodies, and a mysterious dog add spice to these stories. The five stories give you five times as...

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