I referenced Nathanael West recently in a comment on another blog, saying his Day of the Locust seemed very contemporary with its “huge undercurrent of frustration, fear, and dissatisfaction.” Here’s a great post for fans of all things noir by Alastair Savage, comparing and contrasting West and Raymond Chandler. BTW, the name “Homer Simpson” comes from Day of the Locust.
Mid-century Los Angeles was a corrupting place. Prohibition (1920-1933) had made mafia bosses millionaires and an oil boom had brought all sorts of chancers to the quickly growing city. Coupled with people fleeing the Great Depression to seek their dreams in the movie business, you have a world of rapid rises and dramatic falls.
Two writers drawn into this web of desperation and deceit were Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) and Nathanael West (1903-1940). The two men led quite similar lives. Both novelists had parents who were first-generation immigrants to the states: Chandler’s mother came from Ireland while West’s parents were Lithuanian. Both men moved to LA from other large cities: Chandler grew up in Chicago and London, while West was a New Yorker. Each man spent their younger years in Paris before taking up relatively humdrum occupations. Chandler worked as an oilman. West managed a small hotel. Eventually, their skill with the…
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