“You seem to like long engagements, Tiger.” She wasn’t smiling now.
I said, “When it’s over. When we can walk and breathe without smelling death all the time or knowing the world is sitting on the lip of disaster. I don’t want you a widow before you’re married.”
“How do you know what I want, darling?”
“Oh, sure, you’ll take me now because you’re a broad and all broads want it now regardless of the consequences, but I’m not letting you stick your neck out in the middle of a mess like this. Crazy broad.”
“I despise that word.”
“You do? Well, you wear it well, baby. It’s a sign that you’re more than a woman. You’re a doll with everything going for her from a beautiful face to a wild body with a mind to match and I love you like hell. You have capabilities only I can appreciate and I want them all.”
“Do you always have to be like this?”
I paused in the middle of tucking my shirttail in. “You want me any other way?”
“Sometimes I think so.”
“Then screw you too, baby.”
Her face went flat, the pain of my words knocking the expression from it. “You didn’t have to say that.”
“No? Then keep out of my business. Otherwise you stop being a broad and become a dame. I’ll do what I want to do and sometimes what I have to do. One thing I won’t do is succumb to the sentimentality or the wishful thinking of a woman. When I’m working, stay off my back. You know my business so don’t try to steer me clear. The woman isn’t born and her mother’s already dead that can do that trick. I’ll run things my own way and if you don’t give me credit for being an old soldier type with twenty years over your fair head, then regroup your forces, kid, and find another guy who will bow and scrape and do it when you tell him to go potty. Clear?”
—Mickey Spillane in The By-Pass Control
I think the above illustrates the point in my reply to an ask from not long ago (also reproduced below by request). Granted, espionage master Tiger Mann is the protagonist of this Spillane volume, rather than PI Mike Hammer. But does anyone this Tiger says anything here that Hammer wouldn’t?
I can’t think of any corresponding passage in the works of Raymond Chandler, but please do let me know if there is one and I’ve missed it.
Anonymous asked: What do you think of the role of women in The Big Sleep? Do you think Marlowe’s Cynicism has anything to do with the way he views women?
This is an interesting question and once again confirms that I have (in the words of ordinarywonder) “the most well read, intelligent anons.” I’m a bit mystified why anyone would ask such literate question anonymously, but I’m happy to answer all the same.
I think the role of women in Chandler’s novel’s is a product of cynicism rather than any prejudicial view of women. Arguably that is not the case with all hardboiled fiction. Spillane’s Mike Hammer takes some glee in the objectification of women. And Travis McGee is a white knight who helps damsels in distress. He not only vanquishes their tormentors, he can also cure all their hang-ups if they sleep with him.
But I don’t find that in Chandler. The women are pretty much like the men. They all have an angle, and Marlowe’s unique virtue is that he is too stubborn to be a cog in anyone’s wheel. He’s suspicious of everyone and resolutely self-contained.
The women Marlowe comes across are unsavory, no doubt. But are they all that different from the men? In much of hardboiled crime fiction, I think so. In Chandler’s case, I don’t think so.