James Hadley Chase
October 17, 2010 11:47 AM   Subscribe

James Hadley Chase's No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1939) did for the gangster novel what Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep did in the same year for the private-eye novel. Both works were clarifiers, intensifiers, transformers. ... But, as so often happens, Orwell raises the important questions, and it is his essay that has kept No Orchids for Miss Blandish alive for serious consideration. (links may contain mildly NSFW cover art)

Many other James Hadley Chase novels can be found here.
posted by Joe Beese (6 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
wow, i have not thought about this book in thirty years... Dad brought it back after a business trip and it was my first (very intense) introduction to the genre. What about earl stanley gardner?
posted by The Lady is a designer at 11:59 AM on October 17, 2010

Fantastic post, Joe. Every few years I re-read classics of the genre, it's time for this. And thank you so much for JH Chase download link.
posted by VikingSword at 12:24 PM on October 17, 2010

Chase's books have great covers. Especially the delightfully cheesy Corgi editions of the 1970s. Look at that wonderful display font! Which the publisher is inclined to obscure with cheesecake. These covers are worth seeking out in used book stores. If all you want to do is read them, many are available on-line for free: No Orchids for Miss Blandish for example. Joe Beese linked to a lot more.
posted by CCBC at 2:52 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wow. Can't recall having heard of Chase and I'm not going to seek him out now.

I'll read anything by Orwell, though. Lord, that man could write.

FTE, Orwell on American Pulp magazines...

"They are said to have been imported into this country as ballast which accounted for their low price and crumped appearance. Since the war the ships have been ballasted with something more useful, probably gravel."
posted by codswallop at 4:58 PM on October 17, 2010

The explanation of the different editions cleared up something that puzzled me for a long time. I picked up a copy about five years ago (and many years after reading Orwell's essay.) I was deeply puzzled when reading it. Several of the points that Orwell gave particular attention to were not in the book at all. I guess I must have had the Avon edition.

It didn't seem very good writing to me. Part of the trouble was the lack of vividness to the prose. I just wasn't gripping. There was also the continual problem of Chase trying to write in American idiom but continually using British idiom instead (e.g. "lifepreserver" for "blackjack.") This gave the feeling of sliding back and forth in time from the 1930's to the Edwardian times of Sherlock Holmes. British audiences obviously didn't have this problem. It was similar to hearing British actors doing American accents. Probably the same for the Brits listening to Americans doing British accents.

Between those two problems, reading the book was a bit of a slog and unsatisfying because of the Bowdlerization. Oh, well. Even if I found one of the original editions, I wouldn't take the time to read it again. Stupidly brutal. Sort of like Mickey Spillane, but duller.
posted by warbaby at 9:11 PM on October 17, 2010

I remember Chase as being very common in the second hand book shops I haunted as a lad. Those scanty clad women are burned into my memory along with the trippy sf and lurid horror covers of the time.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:49 AM on October 18, 2010

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