John Dalmas

Created by Raymond Chandler

“I felt like an amputated leg.”
— “Trouble is My Business”

“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 husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.”
— “Red Wind”

“Before Raymond Chandler invented Philip Marlowe, he had first to create his pre-hero, JOHN DALMAS,” according to Barry Fantoni in his excellent tribute in Maxim Jakubowski’s 100 Great Detectives. Dalmas is more or less the same character as the later, greater Marlowe, save for the name. He appeared in several short stories in Dime Detective.

The story is that when Dime Detective tried to woo Chandler (and several other writers) away from Black Mask, they asked him to create a new series character who would appear exclusively in their magazine. Chandler didn’t go that far. He just changed the name of Carmady, who had already appeared in several stories in Black Mask, to John Dalmas and began publishing his stories in a new venue.

Dalmas made his debut in “Mandarin’s Jade” in the November 1937 issue of Dime Detective, and returned in “Red Wind,” “Bay City Blues,” “The Lady in the Lake” and “Trouble Is My Business.” Two of the Dalmas stories were reprinted as Marlowe stories in The Simple Art of Murder collection, and the rest were, like the uncollected Carmody yarns, “cannibilized” into Marlowe novels.

And the opening of “Red Wind” is, of course, often cited as an example of just how good a writier Chandler could be. Hell, even Lou Grant on the Mary Tyler Show quoted it.

Other names Chandler used for his loner P.I. hero include Ted Malvern, John Evans and Mallory.


  • “Mandarin’s Jade” (November 1937, Dime Detective)
  • “Red Wind” (January 1938, Dime Detective)
  • “Bay City Blues” (June 1938; Dime Detective)
  • “The Lady in the Lake” (January 1939, Dime Detective)
  • “Trouble Is My Business” (August 1939, Dime Detective)
Respectfully submitted by Jim Doherty.

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