I find it … extremely difficult to write about villains, villains I find extremely difficult people to put my finger on. … The really good, solid villain is a very difficult person to build up, I think.
The BBC had Raymond Chandler and Ian Flemming on the air in July of 1958, for a conversation. The event was to mark the publication of what would turn out to be Chandler’s last book, Playback. This was the last time Fleming and Chandler would have a conversation together, as Chandler passed away some seven months later. What’s more, this is the only surviving rerecord of Raymond Chandler’s voice.
This conversation is just full of great moments, one after another. It never runs out of steam — they go from one topic to the next. As I write this, I’ve listened to it three times, and each time I’m disappointed when it reaches the end.
They cover everything from getting started (Chandler remarks: “You starve to death for ten years before your publisher knows you’re any good.”), to writing heroes (Flemming maintains that James Bond is not a hero, but Chandler’s Philip Marlowe is one), to villains, to the differences in American and British expectations of their genre, and more.
A favorite moment of mine is when Chandler asked Flemming if he always needed to have a torture scene in every single novel. Ha! What was great was how Flemming seemed reluctant when answering in the affirmative.
A few gems from the conversation:
“A man with his job can’t afford to feel tender emotions — he feels them but he has to quell them.”
— Raymond Chandler, on how on James Bond differs from Marlowe.
“I find it … extremely difficult to write about villains, villains I find extremely difficult people to put my finger on. … The really good, solid villain is a very difficult person to build up, I think.”
— Ian Fleming