Simanaitis Says

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RAYMOND CHANDLER’S ENTICING and elegant prose encourages this two-part collection gleaned from The Annotated Big Sleep.

Here in Part 2 are burbank tops, license holders, and California’s sturdy front doors.

Etymology: Automotive Tops. In one scene, Marlowe is driving through a storm: “The rain drummed hard on the roof of the car and the burbank top began to leak.”

Is this akin to a Carson top, the street rodder’s mod? Another annotated annotation.

A Carson top. Image from Custom Car Chronicle.

The Carson top was a removable, non-folding, padded, and upholstered top devised by Glen Houser working at Amos Carson’s Top Shop located at 4910 S. Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles.

Indeed, I had mistakenly assumed Carson tops originated in Carson, 13 miles south of downtown Los Angeles.

Similarly, a Big Sleep footnote says Marlowe’s burbank top has “No relation to the city of Burbank, a few miles southwest of LA. Burbank was a tightly woven cloth that was used for soft tops in the 1920s and ’30s.”

So, I suspect it’s not impossible to have a Carson top upholstered in burbank cloth. Be forewarned, though, according to Marlowe it leaked.

An Item No Longer Fitted. In another scene, Marlowe is inspecting a suspect’s car: “The left window was down. I felt for the license holder and poked light on it.”

Image from

Explains an accompanying Big Sleep footnote: “Cars of the period included a frame where the owner’s license was kept, on the shaft of the steering wheel or on the dashboard.”

On California Homes. When a house surveillance turns critical, Marlowe tries to barge inside giving the door “the heavy shoulder.”

“This was foolish,” Marlowe says in retrospect. “About the only part of a California house you can’t put your foot through is the front door.”

A footnote confirms that “Los Angeles houses were widely reviled for their flimsiness, which was a function of both the rapid construction of buildings as the population boomed and the materials used. Wood-framed and stucco homes were the cheapest and quickest to build, but, to those accustomed to brick and stone, insubstantial and transient—like life in general in the City of Dreams.”

Chandler Kicks. Raymond Chandler knew a thing or two about the potential of a kick. I conclude with my favorite noir comment of all time (now shared twice at SimanaitisSays): “It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window.” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2019

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