The following questions came from David Rachels' blog, Noirboiled Notes (http://www.noirboiled.blogspot.com) I thought it would be fun to answer them; it's a recurring feature on his blog, where he sometimes posts interviews with contemporary mystery/crime fiction writers. I noticed I was able to answer some of them..
1. What's the first crime novel that you remember reading?
Encyclopedia Brown and The Case of The Mysterious Handprints. That was the first one, though if you find it too "kiddie", The Maltese Falcon was the 1st "adult/mature" crime novel I read...but I remember seeing the film first before reading the book, so I personally don't feel like counting it. The Murder At The Vicarage, then.
2. (Dashiell) Hammett or (Raymond) Chandler?
Hammett. Five novels, neither one alike. Each had something new to say. Chandler...I like Philip Marlowe, but I don't like the books..they're too formulaic to me. He rewrote The Big Sleep an additional six times. My favorite scenes in The Long Goodbye are not in the book - they're in the Robert Altman film adaptation - where Marlowe tries to seek a particular brand of cat food for his pet cat in the middle of the night, then in the end, when he shoots Terry Lennox. He thought the cat was his friend; he thought Terry was his friend; they turned on him, like he was a loser, yet he was the only one who cared about either. Meanwhile, in the books...Chandler's prose would have you think he could type 150 pages of scenes describing furnishings and call it a "novel".
3. If forced to choose, would you want Sherlock Holmes or Philip Marlowe to save your life?
Holmes. Marlowe's no fool, but he's always the last to figure out everything! As a detective, he's perceptive in small ways; he can solve the puzzle, but only after the bodies have piled up. Everyone is one step ahead of him..even the shady asshat cops that always give him a hard time and do nothing to help are one step ahead of him! Like I said earlier, I like Marlowe, but Chandler liked him as a noble sap.
4. If you were stuck on a desert island, which crime novelist's complete works would you choose to take with you?
Agatha Christie. There's a lot I have yet read. I would stack neat piles resembling furniture and point to a book like Taken At The Flood and say, "I'm going to give you another chance!"..That was the one Poirot novel that I could never get through..something dull about it...like it was written just as she was making Ms. Marple's appearances more frequent and was about to write fewer Poirot books. When he does appear in later novels, he's usually accompanied by Ariadne Oliver, a mystery writer who was a caricature of Christie's public persona as a mystery writer.
5. Any novel by Chandler you can recommend?
Pfft! ...actually, I think I have an interest in Poodle Springs that I could never shake off. He only wrote the first four chapters before he croaked; it's the work of a dying man - a crusty Philip Marlowe realizing that he's just gotten married to a vapid socialite that proposed marriage to him over the phone; it's strongly hinted that he had taken it at a week moment, when he was feeling his age, taking stock of his lonely existence...and now he realizes he doesn't want to be Nick Charles. It's was a spoof of Hammett's The Thin Man, basically. Enter writer Robert B. Parker with Chapter 5's "I finally found an office." and you realize the rest of the novel is going to eschew the Thin Man riff in favor of another Big Sleep pastiche, this time with Marlowe acting more like Spenser, For Hire...
Or I could recommend The High Window.