Oil and Crime in LA

I’ve read only two Raymond Chandler novels, both recently, including The High Window, which I finished last night.

One thing that strikes me about Chandler is his attitude toward cops. They are not to be trusted, though they are not necessarily evil or vile. He just doesn’t trust that they will be either competent enough or honest enough to uncover the truth of a crime. Phillip Marlowe is the lone-wolf investigator. The only one who cares about the truth.

This characteristic is best illustrated in a story Chandler tells in The High Window. It’s about an apparent murder-suicide in which the police declined to pursue an official inquest, even though there was ample evidence that not everything was as simple as it seemed. But one of the victims was a rich and powerful man. Marlowe recognized that the cops involved in the case were not necessarily corrupt; they just didn’t have the freedom to investigate the case in the manner it should have been handled. There were more powerful forces who wanted the case swept away. And so it was.

And it’s also a true story. I happened across this link this afternoon. It’s a fascinating bit of Los Angeles history that ties in with the power of the Los Angeles Times in that era, big oil and the Teapot Dome Scandal. This is my recommend reading for the next 10 minutes of your life.

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