Everything a writer learns about the art or craft of fiction takes just a little away from his need or desire to write at all. In the end he knows all of the tricks and has nothing to say.

If I wasn't hard, I wouldn't be alive. If I couldn't ever be gentle, I wouldn't deserve to be alive.

She came back with the glass and her fingers, cold from holding the glass, touched mine, and I held them for a moment and then let them go slowly, as you let go of a dream when you wake with the sun in your face and you have been in an enchanted valley.

But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.

She approached me with enough sex appeal to stampede a businessmen's lunch and tilted her head to finger a stray, but not very stray, tendril of softly glowing hair. Her smile was tentative, but could be persuaded to be nice.

She jerked away from me like a startled fawn might,if I had a startled fawn and it jerked away from me.

The faster I write the better my output. If I'm going slow, I'm in trouble. It means I'm pushing the words instead of being pulled by them.

It got dark and the rain-clouded lights of the stores were soaked up by the black street.

Technique alone is never enough. You have to have passion. Technique alone is just an embroidered potholder.

The living room was still dark, because of the heavy growth of the shrubbery the owner had allowed to mask the windows. I put a lamp on and mooched a cigarette. I lit it. I stared down at him. I rumpled my hair which was already rumpled. I put the old tired grin on my face.

Kind of smart guesser, ain't you, young man? Can't wait for folks to get their mouth open hardly. I'm sorry, Mrs. Morrison. This is an important matter to us— This here young man don't seem to have no trouble keepin' his mouth in place. He's married, I said. He's had practice.

The challenge is to write about real things magically.

Hollywood is wonderful. Anyone who doesn't like it is either crazy or sober.

I merely say that all reading for pleasure is escape, whether it be Greek, mathematics, astronomy, Benedetto Croce, or The Diary of the Forgotten Man. To say otherwise is to be an intellectual snob, and a juvenile at the art of living.

I did it for you. I took in a pint of bourbon with me. She's a charming middle-aged lady with a face like a bucket of mud and if she has washed her hair since Coolidge's second term, I'll eat my spare tire, rim and all.

She sighed. All men are the same. So are all women—after the first nine.

A man who drinks too much on occasion is still the same man as he was sober. An alcoholic, a real alcoholic, is not the same man at all. You can't predict anything about him for sure except that he will be someone you never met before.

The voice on the telephone seemed to be sharp and peremptory, but I didn't hear too well what it said, partly because I was only half awake and partly because I was holding the receiver upside down.

She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.

I smelled of gin. Not just casually, as if I had taken four or five drinks of a winter morning to get out of bed on, but as if the Pacific Ocean was pure gin and I had nosedived off the boat deck. The gin was in my hair and eyebrows, on my chin and under my chin. It was on my shirt. I smelled like dead toads.

Leave us do the thinking sweetheart. It takes equipment.

They never tell you why they are doing anything. That way you don't find out they don't know themselves.

She poured us some more Scotch. It didn't seem to affect her any more than water affects Boulder Dam.

I called him up from a phone booth. The voice that answered was fat. It wheezed softly, like the voice of a man who had just won a pie-eating contest.

It's a sordid life, but I'm used to it.

I don't mind your showing me your legs. They're very swell legs and it's a pleasure to make their acquaintace. I don't mind if you don't like my manners. They're pretty bad. I grieve over them during the long winter nights.

The place was horrible by daylight. The Chinese junk on the walls, the rug, the fussy lamp, the teakwood stuff, the sticky riot of colors, the totem pole, the flagon of ether and laudanum - all this in the daytime had a stealthy nastiness, like a fag party.

Do you like orchids?' ‘Not particularly,' I said. The General half closed his eyes. ‘They are nasty things. Their flesh is too much like the flesh of men. And their perfume has the rotten sweetness of a prostitute.' I.

She was wearing a brown tailor-made and from a strap over her shoulder hung one of those awkward-looking square bags that make you think of a Sister of Mercy taking first aid to the wounded.

When I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will stay split.

There was a woman. She was rich. She thought she wanted to marry me. It wouldn't have worked. I'll probably never see her again. But I remember.

This was more like it, a narrowed cluttered little shop stacked with books from floor to ceiling and four or five browsers taking their time- putting thumb marks on the new jackets. Nobody paid any attention to them.

There is nothing tougher than a tough Mexican, just as there is nothing gentler than a gentle Mexican, nothing more honest than an honest Mexican, and above all nothing sadder than a sad Mexican.

What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or in a marble tower on top of a high hill? You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that. Oil and water were the same as wind and air to you. You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell.

To hell with the rich, they make me sick.

When the plot flags, bring in a man with a gun.

Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective 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.

I've found that there are only two kinds [of slang] that are any good: slang that has established itself in the language, and slang that you make up yourself. Everything else is apt to be passé before it gets into print.

It was a smooth silvery voice that matched her hair. It had a tiny tinkle in it, like bells in a doll's house. I thought that was silly as soon as I thought of it.

Do I have to be polite? I asked. Or can I just be natural?

As honest as you can expect a man to be in a world where its going out of style.

She wore a steel gray business suit and under the jacket a dark blue shirt and a man's tie of lighter shade. The edges of the folded handkerchief in the breast pocket looked sharp enough to slice bread.

The tragedy of life, is not that the beautiful things die young, but that they grow old and mean.

Hair like steel wool grew far back on his head and gave him a domed brown forehead that might at careless glance seemed a dwelling place for brains.

Go ahead and faint," I said. "I'll catch you on the first bounce.

I suppose you do this to all the clients, she said softly.

I don't mind if you don't like my manners. They're pretty bad. I grieve over them during the long winter evenings.

A writer who is afraid to overreach himself is as useless as a general who is afraid to be wrong.

All men who read escape from something else into what lies behind the printed page...