It's to my eternal shame that I haven't read any Raymond Chandler. 

Which of his novels do you suggest I try first?

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I would start with "The Big Sleep." It may not be his best, but it was his first of only seven novels. He didn't start until his mid-forties. This way you can follow his progression as a writer and observe his deteriorating view of this sweet cesspool called life.

He didn't do a lot of short stories either, but what he did do is very good. The first paragraph of "Red Wind," is one of the best openings of any hardboiled story.

Yes, why not proceed in written order.

But everyone says skip his last completed novel, Playback, which is rumored to be just dreadful, even though his second to last, The Long Goodbye, is considered by many to be his best.

I agree with Jed and Eric. Read them in order. THE BIG SLEEP may not be the best--though it may be; depends on who you ask--it gives you an excellent insight into what he's doing, and the style of writing. Then you can watch it evolve.

I'm a little jealous. I'll never get to read Chandler for the first time again.

Thanks, I'll try, "The Big Sleep" first.

I totally agree. Read them in order. But stay away from the ones written after his death. Even Robert Parker couldn't match Chandler's writing style.

Tom, I've recently read "The Notebooks of Raymond Chandler" published in 1976 by Harper Collins and reprinted in 2006. I found it to be a quick and insightful read of Chandler's ideas on writing crime and mystery fiction, as well as the writing process overall. The book also includes his thoughts on some of his contemporaries. Dated, but interesting.

Thanks Gavin

You should also take a few minutes to read his essay, "The Simple Art of Murder," in which he lays out his thoughts on murder mysteries. It's where the famous "down these mean streets" quote appears. It can be found online at http://www.en.utexas.edu/amlit/amlitprivate/scans/chandlerart.html

Thanks Dana

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