25 Chandlerisms to Celebrate the Crime Fiction Icon


Call it hyperbole, an analogy, a metaphor, or a simile — but when it comes to reading the work of The Big Sleep novelist Raymond Chandler, we call it Chandlerisms. The author and screenwriter, born on this day, was full of snappy one-liners that made him — and his most famous character, private detective Philip Marlowe — a pulp fiction icon. Remember the best Chandlerisms, below.

“Dead men are heavier than broken hearts.”

“She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.”

“I’m an occasional drinker, the kind of guy who goes out for a beer and wakes up in Singapore with a full beard.”

“She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight.”

“Some days I feel like playing it smooth. Some days I feel like playing it like a waffle iron.”

“I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room.”

“From 30 feet away she looked like a lot of class. From 10 feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from 30 feet away.”

“The streets were dark with something more than night.”

“He looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food.”

“The girl slept on, motionless, in that curled-up looseness achieved by some women and all cats.”

“He had a battered face that looked as if it had been hit by everything but the bucket of a dragline.”

“Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl’s clothes off.”

“It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.”

“When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.”

“A city [Los Angeles] with all the personality of a paper cup.”

“She was as cute as a washtub.”

“The kid’s face had as much expression as a cut of round steak and was about the same color.”

“The voice got as cool as a cafeteria dinner.”

“I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it.”

“The corridor which led to it had a smell of old carpet and furniture oil and the drab anonymity of a thousand shabby lives.”

“I felt like an amputated leg.”

“On the dance floor half a dozen couples were throwing themselves around with the reckless abandon of a night watchman with arthritis.”

“His smile was as stiff as a frozen fish.”

“Please don’t get up,’ she said in a voice like the stuff they use to line summer clouds with.”

“The detective must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man.”