Concept

The Simple Art of Murder

Summary
The Simple Art of Murder is the title of several quasi-connected publications by hard-boiled detective fiction author Raymond Chandler: The first, and arguably best-known, is a critical essay on detective fiction, originally published in The Atlantic Monthly in December 1944. A revised, expanded version was included in Howard Haycraft's 1946 anthology The Art of the Mystery Story. The second is a separate, shorter essay, mostly describing Chandler's personal experiences writing for pulp magazines, originally published in Saturday Review of Literature, April 15, 1950. The third is a short story collection, also originally published in 1950 (by Houghton Mifflin Co.), which contains eight of Chandler's stories pre-dating his first novel The Big Sleep, that he wanted remembered. While first editions of this collection feature an abridgement of the Saturday essay as an introduction and the Atlantic essay as an afterword, later editions tend to feature the Atlantic essay as the introduction and relegate the Saturday essay to other collections, most commonly Trouble Is My Business. The Atlantic essay is considered a seminal piece of literary criticism. Although Chandler's primary topic is the art (and failings) of contemporary detective fiction, he touches on general literature and modern society as well. The opening statement – "Fiction in any form has always intended to be realistic" – places Chandler in a lineage with earlier American Realists, in particular Mark Twain and his critique of James Fenimore Cooper, "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses". Chandler dissects A. A. Milne's The Red House Mystery much as Twain tears apart Cooper's The Deerslayer, namely by revealing what is ignored, brushed over, and unrealistic. "If the situation is false," Chandler writes, "you cannot even accept it as a light novel, for there is no story for the light novel to be about." He expands his criticism to the bulk of detective fiction, especially of the English variety which he complains is preoccupied with "hand-wrought dueling pistols, curare and tropical fish.
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