CHANDLER: Stories & Early Novels and CHANDLER: Later Novels & Other Writings.  Two-volume set. Library of America, hardcover, 1995.

   If you, like me, think that any mystery collection is inadequate and incomplete without the works of Raymond Chandler; and you, like me, have acquired his books in mass paperback because you couldn’t afford them in hard covers; and you, like me, have harbored a forlorn wish to have them in a more permanent and respectable yet not outrageously expensive form; then here is what we’ve both been waiting for.

   Since 1982 the Library of America, “an award-winning, non-profit publishing program dedicated to publishing America’s greatest writers in handsome, enduring volumes,” has been doing just that, and the Chandler set makes up the 80th and 81st volumes they have issued.

   In the two volumes you’ll find all of Chandler’s novels, the thirteen short stories that he did not later incorporate into a novel, selected essays and letters, and the screenplay he wrote with Billy Wilder for Cain’s Double Indemnity. The 1199 and 1076 page  volumes also each include notes and an excellent updated chronology of Chandler’s life by Frank McShane.

   These are superbly produced books that bring the essence and essential works of Chandler together in an accessible and affordable form. At $35 the volume they represent as  fine a value as you’re likely to find in the field in these days of $24 first novels and $7 paperbacks.  If you don’t already own Chandler in hardcovers — and how many of us do? — you need to own these.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #22, November 1995