Quote: When in doubt have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand. (Raymond Chandler 1950)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue Apr 1 13:27:17 UTC 2014

Request: If someone can verify this quote before 1950 please let me know.

An interesting quotation about how to write detective fiction has been
attributed to Raymond Chandler who wrote The Big Sleep and The Long
Goodbye. I was able to verify the quote in a 1950 essay.

[ref] 1950 April 15, Saturday Review of Literature, The Simple Art of
Murder by Raymond Chandler, Start Page 13, Quote Page 13 and 14,
Saturday Review Associates, New York. (Unz)[/ref]

[Begin excerpt]
This was inevitable because the demand was for constant action and if
you stopped to think you were lost. When in doubt have a man come
through a door with a gun in his hand. This could get to be pretty
silly but somehow it didn't seem to matter. A writer who is afraid to
over-reach himself is as useless as a general who is afraid to be
[End excerpt]

Here is a link to the QI entry:

There is considerable confusion about the location of this quote, I
think. Chandler wrote two different essays with the same title: "The
Simple Art of Murder". The better known essay was published in "The
Atlantic Monthly", but I've read, scanned, and OCRed this work, and
the quotation was not included.

[ref] 1944 December, The Atlantic Monthly, "The Simple Art of Murder"
by Raymond Chandler, Start Page 53, The Atlantic Monthly Company,
Boston, Massachusetts. (Verified on paper)[/ref]

Chandler also published a collection of short stories in 1950 under
the same title "The Simple Art of Murder". An altered version of the
"The Atlantic Monthly" essay was included. I have not seen the 1950
edition of this book, and I do not know if the quotation was included
in the book. It is conceivable that it included versions of both

In 1972 a paperback collection titled "Trouble Is My Business" by
Raymond Chandler was released containing four stories and a version of
the essay from the "Saturday Review of Literature". Thus, this book
included the quotation under examination. A short story within the
collection was also titled "Trouble Is My Business", and that has been
another source of confusion, I think.

Also in 1972 a paperback edition titled "The Simple Art of Murder" was
released. The contents differed from the 1950 book with the same
titled. It contained fewer stories, only four, plus a modified version
of "The Atlantic Monthly" essay. The quotation was absent.

The "Yale Book of Quotations" has this quote and lists the following
citation: "Trouble Is My Business (1939)". A Wikipedia bibliography
states that the Chandler short story "Trouble is My Business" appeared
in "Dime Detective" in August 1939. I have not seen this magazine. The
quote is not in modern editions of this short story. So this citation
is confusing to me. Perhaps Fred was able to gain access to this


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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