“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor—by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.”
—-Novelist and detective story master Raymond Chandler, in his essay, “The Simple Art Of Murder,
The quote continues,
“He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him.”
My father, Jack A. Marshall Sr., was not much for revenge, but otherwise Chandler’s quote, which he liked very much, was descriptive of Dad as well.
There has been a lot of discussion of courage here of late, both because I see it lacking at a crucial and defining time in our history, and because it must be found, as this nation has always managed to find it before, sometimes at the last moment before it was too late.Women should not feel snubbed by Chandler’s quote, which just wouldn’t read as well using two genders, or “they.” He was a typical male sexist of his time (though a complicated one), but today he would concede that his description of courage knows no gender limitations. In my immediate family, it describes with equal accuracy my grandmother, my mother, my sister, my late mother-in-law, and especially my wife. Cross her at your peril.
I had forgotten Chandler’s quote until I was reacquainted with it in an episode of “Blue Bloods,” when police commissioner Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) used it to describe his late son.