Thursday, August 07, 2008

Raymond Talks to Ian

This is the best thing I've tripped over in quite a while.

In 1958, Ian Fleming had a conversation with Raymond Chandler on the BBC. It's said to be the only existing record of Chandler's voice. When Fleming picked him up to go to the studio, Chandler's voice was "slurred with whiskey," but in the interview both men sound like they're at the end of a long night.

According to the BBC reporter who introduces the segment, Chandler lived in London as a youth and "never lost a rather dreamy love of England." Once he became a writer (relatively late in life), there was a more practical side to the love, too. Chandler didn't suffer from crippling humility -- "I may be the best writer in (the U.S.)," he once noted -- and he appreciated that he was taken more seriously in the UK, where his chosen genre didn't keep critics from favorably reviewing his work alongside Literature.

The conversation between the two -- which you can hear in its entirety here -- is fantastic. It can be hard to make out their words at times, but it's worth the effort. I've listened twice through now, and I imagine I'll listen a few more times in the coming days, just to feel like I'm in the company of these . . . well, these crazy old men.

I'll share two of my favorite exchanges here, but both are greatly enhanced by the tone of their voices. Chandler does sound a little "relaxed" throughout, and Fleming has that terrific British way of responding to stories of graft and murder with interstitial murmurs of "Hmm, yes," and "Quite." In this first bit, Fleming has noted that someone was recently murdered in New York, and asks how something like that might go down. Chandler explained that a syndicate in New York might, say, hire a few guys to come in from Minneapolis, case the target, do the deed, and get out of town. I pick up the conversation there:
Ian Fleming: How much do they get paid for that, each?

Raymond Chandler: 10,000.

IF: 10,000 each?

RC: Mm-hm. If it’s an important man. That’s small money for a syndicate.

IF: Yes. And then they go back to their jobs in the hardware stores in, uh, Minneapolis.

RC: Yes. Oh, it ain’t personal.

IF: Yeah, they don’t mind one way or the other.

RC: They don’t care anything about the man, they don’t care whether he’s dead or alive. It’s just a job to them. Of course, they have to be a certain sort of people, or they wouldn’t do it. I mean, they’re not like us. We wouldn’t do it.

IF: No. (pause) Difficult thing to imagine doing.

RC: Well, I’ve known people I’d like to shoot.

IF: For instance. Anybody in England?

RC: No, not in England.

IF: What do you want to shoot them for?

RC: I just thought they were better dead.
In this second excerpt, Fleming has noted that he's just finished a new James Bond novel:
RC: What’s it called?

IF: It’s called Goldfinger.

RC: Which?

IF: Goldfinger.

RC: How can you write so many books with all the other things you do?

IF: Well, I sit down and...I have two months off in Jamaica every year, in my contract with the Sunday Times, and I sit down and I write a book every year during those two months. And then I bring it back...

RC: I can’t write a book in two months.

IF: Well, but then you write better books than I do.

RC: Well, that may be or may be not. But I still can’t write a book in two months. The fastest book I ever wrote, I wrote in three months.
(Via Detectives Beyond Borders)


Blogger Dezmond said...

I've heard this too. As you might guess, I bought the expensive Bond DVD sets for all 21 Bond films, and each film gets the two disc treatment. One disc for the actual movie, and a second disc for all kinds of fun extras.

The audio of this exchange is one of the extras on one of the DVDs. It is great. I've spent many hours watching every extra on every Bond DVD.

There is one great one where they show some period BBC television special on Major Boothroyd, who was the inspiration for the great character "Q" in the films. He was actually some pudgy, balding British weapons expert. The documentary is absolutely priceless. Boothroyd gives demonstrations of all the guns that Bond uses in the novels and films, when he gets to Bond's early favorite Baretta model, he scoffs that it is a gun that is "more appropriate for a lady's handbag than for a secret agent."

6:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand that Fleming and Chandler were actually good friends. Supposedly, Fleming decided to kill off Bond at the end of one of his early books, and Chandler was the guy who talked him out of it. I guess he convinced Fleming that maybe there was something to this Bond character after all.

And it appears that Chandler was not only a great writer, but an alcoholic. He was supposedly working on some screenplay when he got writer's block. He told the movie producers that he couldn't finish the book sober. So he'd get drunk in the morning, then someone would drive him to wherever he was supposed to write the book, then he'd drink throughout the day while typing out pages, and then they'd drive him home at night. He followed the routine until he got the script done.

-- MattM

12:38 AM  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That interview was a real treat, not just for the pleasure of hearing Chandler's and Fleming's voices, but for the seriousness with which each took the other's work. They represent different colors on the crime-fiction, which made their mutual respect especially noteworthy, I think.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

5:49 PM  

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