There are times in life when you need a good opener. Maybe you’re caught in a rut and need the charge of a new world, new characters, something that carries with it the quiet thrill of possibility. Maybe you’re looking for inspiration yourself. All writers, aspiring and established, have a few special works they return to time and again, those books and stories that seem to act like jumper cables for their own work—read a few paragraphs, a chapter or two, and you’re back on the road. Whatever your reason or need, you’d be hard pressed to find an author equal to Raymond Chandler in jolting a story alive. If Elmore Leonard was the king of the opening line, Chandler made a case for himself as the master of the opening paragraph. Whether he’s describing the weather, the face of a building, a street corner, or the glint in a doorman’s eye, Chandler brought the scene instantly to life and gave you an immediate and overwhelming feeling that you were in a real place, encountering real people caught up in the little dramas and tragedies that define all our lives.
One-hundred and thirty one years ago today, Chandler was born in Chicago, Illinois. In honor of that auspicious entrance and the many more he would pass down to the annals of literature, we’ve collected here (and ranked, because some are first among peers) our ten favorite openers from Chandler’s novels and short stories.
Read them all, get drawn in all over again, and above all, let yourself be inspired.
“It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid-October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my power-blu suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:
You can also read my Crime Beat column on Raymond Chandler via the below link:
And you can read my Washington Times review of The Annotated Big Sleep via the below link: