Remembering Raymond Chandler and Defending Ruth Rendell

Crime Writers

To the Editor:

Stephen King has long been a literary hero of mine. I appreciate his prolific book reviewing too, and in his glowing review of Laura Lippman’s “Lady in the Lake” (July 28), he is surely right to note that recently published novel’s resonance with the movie “Sunset Boulevard.” However, King fails to mention a more important parallel — between Lippman’s new page-turner and Raymond Chandler’s 1943 detective novel, “The Lady in the Lake.”

In his earlier book, Chandler also set his central character’s sights on the mysterious disappearance of two separate women within the course of a single story. Lippman’s protagonist, Maddie Schwartz, may have grown up Jewish in Baltimore, but she’s clearly the descendant of a Los Angeles detective named Philip Marlowe.

Brian Schwartz
Millburn, N.J.

To the Editor:

After reading Stephen King’s remark about Ruth Rendell in his review of Laura Lippman’s “Lady in the Lake,” I feel the need to stand up for Rendell’s gift of humor.

Rather than “a trick” she “rarely managed,” I find it evident throughout her books. I’m thinking of her sense of humor both at the broad level of characterization (for instance, the meditation-and-levitation-practicing murderer in “The Lake of Darkness”) and at the sentence level, where she knew how the precise placement of an adverb could make a bit of exposition that much funnier.

Daphne Kalotay
Somerville, Mass.

Orwell’s Influences

To the Editor:

I was intrigued to learn from Lev Mendes’s review of “The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell’s ‘1984’’’ (July 21) that Orwell’s dystopian novel returned to the top of the best-seller lists after the inauguration of President Trump.

Among the writers who inspired Orwell was his contemporary Arthur Koestler, who was also disillusioned with the communists after collaborating with them in the Spanish Civil War. Orwell praised Koestler’s “Dialog With Death” and was influenced in writing “Animal Farm” and “1984” by Koestler’s anticommunist masterpiece, “Darkness at Noon.”

Admirers of Orwell may be interested to know that the original German text of “Darkness at Noon,” which had disappeared for 75 years, recently surfaced in Switzerland and a fresh translation into English will soon appear. When the original text appeared in Germany last year, it made the best-seller list of books from independent publishers. I wonder how well its English version will do in the age of Trump.

Michael Scammell
New York

The writer is the author of “Koestler: The Literary and Political Odyssey of a Twentieth-Century Skeptic.”

The Writer as Houseguest

To the Editor:

In her entertaining essay, “Houseguests: Beware the Scribbling Visitor” (July 21), Jessica Francis Kane directs our attention to an Auden poem, “For Friends Only,” which she describes as “an ode to the benefits of having a guest room.”

I was wondering if she was familiar with Stephen Spender’s affectionate and exasperated accounts of what an eccentric and inconsiderate houseguest Auden could be.

Stephen da Silva
Dallas

Correction

A bibliographical note with a review on July 28 about the novel “The Doll Factory,” by Elizabeth Macneal, misidentified the book’s publisher. It is Emily Bestler Books/Atria, not Picador. The error was repeated on Aug. 4 in the Editors’ Choice column.

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