HERE WE HAVE a story that, according to the author, "is meant to be both an hommage to the works of Raymond Chandler and a criticism of them." Let's see if it is . . .
"The Big Dream."
By John Kessel (born 1950).
First appearance: Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine,
Collected in Meeting in Infinity (1992); reprints page (HERE).
Novelette (34 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).
(Parental caution: Strong language and adult situations.)
"He started up the walk toward the street and a blow like someone dropping a cinder block on the back of his neck knocked him senseless."
Some people are gifted with charisma, effortlessly attracting others to them, garnering followers who are willing to go to ridiculous lengths to please these charmers; that, in itself, isn't necessarily a bad thing (freakish, yes). For PI Mike Davin, however, the charm with which this guy Chandler seems to be endowed is proving unmistakably fatal to the man's friends and associates—and, as a prospect of intense personal interest to our gumshoe, unless Davin can avoid falling under Chandler's spell, he's next . . .
~ Michael Davin:
"The jasmine smelled good, but lying under a bush in a flower bed dimmed your apprecia-tion. Davin rolled over and started to look for the back of his skull. It was not in plain sight."
~ Raymond Chandler:
"Everyone who loved this man defended him, and he remained oblivious to it all, self-pitying and innocent when he ought to be guilty."~ Cecily Chandler:
"'Mr. Davin—I'm paying you for information. Don't leave me in the dark.' The voice that had been so thrillingly sexy two days before was that of a worried old woman."
~ Estelle Lloyd:
". . . was kneeling on the bed, shaking. She had a small automatic pointed at him."
~ May Peterson:
"'He hired me himself. Maybe he didn't think he hired me because I got a nice figure, but I figured out pretty quick that was in the back of his mind.' She smiled. 'Pretty soon it was in front.'"
~ John Abrams:
"A year later Ballantine drops dead in the office. Chandler helps the coroner and the coroner decides it was a heart attack. Mr. Dabney gives up and makes Chandler the new auditor, and within another year he's office manager and vice-president. Very neat, huh?"
~ Quintanella and Sanderson: "You tell me to talk, he tells me to shut up. Every time you guys get a burr in your paws, you make guys like me pull it out for you. Call me Androcles."
~ Big Lou:
"As I tried to get up I got hit in the ear with a fist that felt like a baseball bat. Just to show there were no hard feelings, Lou kicked me in the ribs."
Typo: "he though about getting"
- The Big Three databases have ample info about John Joseph Vincent Kessel: Wikipedia (HERE), the SFE (HERE), and the ISFDb's bibliography (HERE).
- If you'd like to compare the Raymond Chandler in our story with the Raymond Chandler in real life, see Wikipedia (HERE):
"After the armistice [ending World War I], [Chandler] returned to Los Angeles by way of Canada, and soon began a love affair with Pearl Eugenie ('Cissy') Pascal, a married woman 18 years his senior and the stepmother of Gordon Pascal, with whom Chandler had enlisted. Cissy amicably divorced her husband, Julian, in 1920, but Chandler's mother disapproved of the relationship and refused to sanction the marriage. For the next four years Chandler supported both his mother and Cissy. After the death of Florence Chandler on September 26, 1923, he was free to marry Cissy. They were married on February 6, 1924. Having begun in 1922 as a bookkeeper and auditor, Chandler was by 1931 a highly paid vice president of the Dabney Oil Syndicate, but his alcoholism, absenteeism, promiscuity with female employ-
ees, and threatened suicides contributed to his dismissal a year later."
— "Raymond Chandler," Wikipedia
- We encountered Kessel earlier this year with his "The Miracle of Ivar Avenue" (HERE).