Legendary Crime Fiction Writers Weren’t Immune to Literary Feuds

The vicious side of literary history

"The Big Sleep"
An image from the film adaptation of Raymond Chandler's "The Big Sleep."
Corbis via Getty Images

Writers don’t always get along. The messy business of literary feuds has ensnared a significant number of high-profile literati over the years; it’s even prompted some observers in recent years to feel nostalgic for the literary feuds of a bygone era.

Given all of the intrigue that can surround feuds of all types, it’s probably not much of a surprise to hear that the authors of a number of high-profile examples of crime fiction had a penchant for being publicly frustrated with one another. Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald both published a number of beloved and influential crime novels over the course of their respective careers. But as it turns out, the two don’t seem to have been particularly impressed with one another.

That’s one of the big takeaways from a new article by Curtis Evans that was recently published at CrimeReads. This included Chandler including Macdonald in a group of “literary eunuchs” that he cited in his correspondence, and arguing that Macdonald’s The Drowning Pool was overly derivative of his own work. Macdonald was not much more fond of Chandler than vice versa — all of which made for headaches for both writers, but an intriguing piece of literary history decades later.

It’s worth pointing out that both Chandler and MacDonald also had issues with other high-profile crime fiction writers — as Evans points out, neither man was a fan of Mickey Spillane’s work. Chandler also had issues with the entire genre of science fiction. Do the same skills at writing memorable literature make literary feuds so compelling? That just might be the case.

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