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Chandler American Time

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The period of the classic American detective stories, especially the hard-boiled ones. The classic era of Film Noir.

War may be happening in Europe, but for the moment it's still the Jazz Age in the USA. Newspapers are sold by young, possibly disabled, boys on the street. Businesses are run by Corrupt Corporate Executives, and while the well-off enjoy nightclubs, the after-effects of The Great Depression still overshadow the lives of the poor.

The Trope Namer is Stephen King's short story "Umney's Last Case", named in honor of Raymond Chandler, writer of The Big Sleep in 1939 and adapter of the screenplay for James M. Cain's Double Indemnity in 1944, making him one of the major Trope Makers and Codifiers of this vision of America.

In King's story, private eye Umney suggests it is "1938, maybe '39, maybe even 1940" and calls this "eighteen months or so before the start of World War II". (Hah! Try telling a European that!) Prohibition is probably over, but the power that The Mob gained in that period means they run many of the bars and clubs. The police may be trustworthy or they may be corrupt. They may very well be brutal.

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Everyone wears hats.

The differences between this and the Genteel Interbellum Setting , with which it overlaps with the last years of, are pretty much the whole point of Raymond Chandler's essay The Simple Art of Murder: Chandler American Time differs in being more urban, more cynical, more violent, more temporally specific (in chronological terms, Chandler American Time is confined to the very tail end of the Genteel Interbellum Setting, including The '40s and first few years of The ’50s) and quintessentially confined American, whether geographically confined to the continental US or focusing on what amount to pockets or colonies of America in other cities, like Rick's Cafe Americain or cities Americanized by American businesses in the wake of the Second World War.

Crimes are committed by the kinds of people who commit crimes in real life, and by realistic methods. Shootings by ex-gangsters trying to prevent their past being exposed? Yes. Chief of French police chopping a millionaire's head off, then switching it with another head he pinched from the guillotine, all because the policeman was an atheist and wanted to stop the millionaire leaving his fortune to the church? No. (That's the actual solution of Father Brown: The Secret Garden!)

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Since elaborate but silly murder methods are out, any crime must have many suspects and incredibly tangled motives in order to be puzzling. This is usually helped along by having the poor sap that kicks off the plot being a bit of an Asshole Victim.

The standard timeframe of Two-Fisted Tales, such as Indiana Jones or The Rocketeer. For additional information on the overlapping era in comics, see The Golden Age of Comic Books. Often subject to Comic-Book Time, Setting Update, and Ambiguous Time Period.

Nothing to do with Chandler Bing. Subtrope of Film Noir.


Examples:

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    Comic Books 

    Film 
  • Casablanca takes place from December 2 to December 5, 1941 in Morocco, and revolves around American Rick Blaine's attempts to stay neutral in Nazi-occupied Casablanca when an old flame reappears, now married to a man with ties to the French Resistance. Rick's smoky Cafe Americain, his doomed romance with Ilsa, his Odd Friendship with the corrupt Jerk with a Heart of Gold policeman Renault, and the movie's fog-bound goodbye scene have all become often-homaged classics of the genre.
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is set in New York, 1926, and manages to get some of the tropes associated with this in, including a scene in a goblin-run nightclub/speakeasy, complete with a house-elf crooner performing onstage.

    Literature 

    Video Games 
  • Grim Fandango, while set in the Eighth Underworld of Aztec Mythology, also takes place during the era, with many a Shout-Out to the genre, including its Everyman salesman/Grim Reaper protagonist Manny Calavera running headlong into a conspiracy that runs to the very heart of the Department of Death.

    Western Animation 


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