Here’s to gumshoes, dreams, and the joy of writing

The papers are boxed and ready for shredding. Only two items remain, an unfinished manuscript and a pile of newspaper clippings from the 1990s.

I sift through the pile. I find an article from the New York Times Magazine, dated December 4, 1994. The headline reads “Pulp Fashion. The tailor is Raymond Chandler. The look, Hollywood noir.” The author, Dana Thomas, an American journalist living in Paris, claims that clothes build character. To prove her point, Thomas turns to Raymond Chandler and his sidekick Philip Marlowe. She quotes from Chandler’s 1939 novel The Big Sleep:

“I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them.”

“Raymond Chandler introduced all of his characters like this,” writes Thomas. “From chapeau to wing tips, every accessory was noted, every detail examined…[Philip Marlowe would] know if a suit was tailor-made or off the rack, if a wedding band was platinum or simply white gold…No one could forget Chandler’s characters. He gave his players more than height, weight, and hair color. They had a personality, a history, attitude, all of which were initially defined by what they were wearing.”

Buried in the pile of clippings is an article from the Chicago Tribune Magazine, published January 3, 1993. It was written by Bill Granger, a Chicago journalist turned bestselling author of spy thrillers and police procedurals. (Granger died in 2012.) The article is titled “Here’s to Big Mitch, beef sandwiches and other sweet rituals of life.”

“I sated myself,” Granger wrote. “An Italian beef sandwich piled this high and smothered with sweet green peppers and the bread soaked in the gravy…We talked about this one and that one and how big my kid was and Pat the Gas Man and Dickie Z and the Tuesday Afternoon Club…”

That settles it.

I place the unfinished manuscript and both articles inside my desk and toss the remaining clippings into a box.

The line at the shredding event stretches across the parking lot. The gentleman behind me boasts that his paper clutter dates to 2012.