They say that our heroes are idealised aspects of ourselves – my idol is a freelance private investigator, with a strong personal code of ethics; fiercely loyal to his clients, even at personal cost; he will not be distracted by money or sexual adventures; he enjoys solitude, chess puzzles, smoking and drinking whisky; he is not scared of the bad guys and is never defeated. Over many years, he is my go-to-guy; when despondency hovers, I open a Philip Marlowe book; the plot doesn’t matter, I’m visiting the personal landscape of a warrior hero, who never fails me.
Raymond Chandler wrote seven Marlowe novels; in the last two, there are ‘wobbles’, signs of his, by then, advanced alcoholism; but overall, his creation may be the best detective ever written. Our relationship with the forces of darkness is a deep human theme – printed on our souls. For this primal struggle, Chandler fashioned a character whose hard-boiled cynicism masks a courageous humanity. Masterful writing, of such a powerful champion of hope, means that his novels transcend any genre – will be read for as long as the best novels of any kind.
For years I enjoyed the pipedream of one day handling the first print of a Chandler novel; I would look on antiquarian shelves for ‘that book’. For my 80th birthday (10.05.2020), my family gave me a first edition of Hamish Hamilton’s publication of ‘The Long Goodbye’ (1953). The text is the same as my paperback version – but holding the original, I feel more ‘connected’ to Chandler’s great legacy.
Our family Christmas gathering alternates between the hospitality of my nephew or my niece, and includes kin from across the land, and numerous dwellings; obviously it was cancelled last year and this year depends on how Omicron behaves. Our First Minister and Deputy know the importance of Christmas to families, and we trust them to make the right call, even if it’s a difficult one. This is not the case with guidance issued by the UK Govt, who have squandered public trust through ‘cover-ups’, particularly of their merry-making last year. A central issue remains: how long will the establishment abide a PM who is an incurable liar, with no sense of shame. I wonder who decides. Devastating Guardian editorial.
Yesterday afternoon (Thurs 9th Dec), Kate Forbes delivered the 2022/23 Scottish Budget: the BBC news platform gives an early indication of Scottish Govt’s priorities.
Citizen Advice Scotland (CAS), which occupies the front trenches in combating poverty, reported this week that one in three Scots finds energy bills unaffordable ; CAS launched its Big Energy Saving Winter Campaign, encouraging people to get advice. No country in the world has easier renewable energy than Scotland; it’s a failure of Govt that our citizens don’t benefit.
Care of the most vulnerable – in early years of final years – should not be distorted by the profit motive. This BBC article, and Panorama programme, explains how the UK Care Home Sector is targeted by private equity investors looking for high returns. Tory MP, Jeremy Hunt finds this ‘disturbing’ – ‘the unacceptable face of capitalism’ – wants more appropriate investment.
This Conversation piece says that Labour now has an emphatically post-Jeremey Corbyn cabinet – with little prospect of bold experiments; Ed Miliband sidelined; Yvette Cooper promoted; a bid for the pro-business political centre. But if they’ve abandoned the vision of universal basic services – nationalised energy, broadband etc – it raises the question what’s Labour for in the 2020s.
I try not to waste much time worrying about extreme right-wing activists – but John Harris, in the Guardian, thinks they are fanatical and dangerous. The vocal element of the Conservative Party (which Boris Johnson needs) that successfully pushed us into the hardest of Brexits, can now be seen railing against measures to control Covid. They think we should be free to infect who we want.
Lynda La Plante writing about Raymond Chandler.
“Evelyn Waugh described Raymond Chandler in the late 1940s as the greatest living American novelist… He wrote his first novel, The Big Sleep, at the age of 50. His career until then had been varied, veering between rich, poor, drunk, teetotal, and often despondent. He was a reclusive, complex, sometimes vulnerable man, often a very tedious drunk but with a wired sense of humour and wit. Shortly before his death, Chandler described his greatest creation, Philip Marlowe, as a man always lonely, but never defeated. Chandler was asked if he ever read his own fiction and this is his reply: ‘Yes, at the risk of being called egotistical, I find it damned hard to put down. Even me that knows all about it – but I take no credit for it – it just happens, like red hair.’ I read and reread Chandler. I laugh at his wit, his turn of phrase: I am in awe of his brilliant character descriptions. Philip Marlowe is the best detective ever written, and all his novels are damned hard to put it down.”