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New Raymond Chandler Story Takes On Health Care Industry

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The late Raymond Chandler has a new story out. Chandler, who died in 1959, wrote detective fiction set in mid-20th century Los Angeles. Our colleague Steve Inskeep reports on a previously unpublished Chandler tale.

STEVE INSKEEP, BYLINE: This story comes from a writer whose words painted impressionistic portraits of LA in passages like this from a famous story. Music, please.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that, every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husband's necks.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: Chandler's narrator was Private Eye Philip Marlowe played by Humphrey Bogart in movies and influencing countless later crime writers. Garrison Keillor's satirical tales of "Guy Noir, Private Eye" - that's pretty much Chandler. Andrew Gulli of Strand Magazine is the one who says he found the new Chandler tale. It is called "It's All Right - He Only Died," a very brief 1950s tale of an apparently homeless man brought to a hospital emergency room.

ANDREW GULLI: And the hospital are, as you can imagine, reluctant to treat him because they were instructed by one of their wealthy benefactors that it's not a charity hospital and that they could only treat patients who can pay them. And there is a big twist at the end of the story.

INSKEEP: There is also a good dose of human nature in these few hundred words. You have a doctor and a nurse. They're thinking about whether they're at the end of the shift and whether they're going to miss dinner if they treat this guy and who's going to complain to them if he doesn't pay. It's all about the people.

GULLI: Exactly. Chandler had this - was very sympathetic to people who are downtrodden.

INSKEEP: So this story, where did it come from - this undiscovered story until now?

GULLI: Well, this story was found in the Bodleian Library in Oxford University. I was working for a long time to get it. In fact, I was talking to the head librarian. And I would call him up and I would say, I see that you've listed this folder over here, and I think that there is something unpublished by Chandler.

INSKEEP: Oh, because they had all these old papers, and you thought somewhere in there was a story.

GULLI: Exactly. And I drove the man insane. He said, look, I really don't think that there is anything left. And when I opened it up, I was acting like Kaspar Gutman from "The Maltese Falcon," who I know Hammett wrote, but I said, 17 years, I've waited for this (laughter).

INSKEEP: (Laughter) I wondered if you were starting to talk like Phillip Marlowe as you tried to explain this mystery. It was one of those hot dry days in the library. You couldn't smell anything but the musty books.

GULLI: Exactly.

INSKEEP: As you know, whenever something is posthumously published by an author, the question has to be raised as to whether the author really wanted that out in the world. Do you think Chandler would have minded publishing this?

GULLI: I think he would have been happy to see his work being published. I mean, in a lot of Chandler's works, he would rail against big money. He would write about all the phonies and the people who looked like they were wonderful people. And in Chandler's world, what shines was never really gold.

But in this story, he seems to be really taking on the health care industry. And I think he could see what would be happening in the next 50, 60 years. When I read this story, I said to myself millions of people could identify with the situation that's occurring in this short little story.

INSKEEP: Andrew Gulli is managing editor of The Strand Magazine, which has published, apparently, for the first time, a short story by the late Raymond Chandler. Thanks very much.

GULLI: Thanks a lot, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.