While working in New York a few years back, I decided to dip my toe into some of the classics of the crime genre. I was (and am) a big fan of films noir, so I figured I'd read the source material for some of my favorite movies. After about 50 pages of The Big Sleep, I logged on to Amazon and bought the remaining Marlowe novels.
I'll quote Mr. Blackmoore here because it sums up what I think is Chandler's lasting appeal.
Reading Chandler is like reading poetry. It's rhythm and flow. More to evoke mood than move plot it somehow manages to do both. He was a storyteller who could charm you with the music in his writing and you wouldn't care if he actually made sense.There are many authors (too many to count) who were influenced by Chandler. Some of them are good. Many of them just try to ape his similes and miss out on the "music" part of his writing (not to mention the actual complexity of the Marlowe character). Reading them is like watching a whale knit.
That being said, I'll leave you with a couple of my favorite lines. Feel free to add your own in the comments.
"Even on Central Avenue, not the quietest dressed street in the world, he looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food." - Farewell, My Lovely (1940)
"She's a charming middle age lady with a face like a bucket of mud..." - Farewell, My Lovely (1940)
"I never saw any of them again — except the cops. No way has yet been invented to say goodbye to them." - The Long Goodbye (1954)