This is a collection of early short stories and an essay which gave the book its name. The latter is fairly short and its main idea is an argument for the virtues of a noir mystery as opposed to a traditional British one. Considering the fact that this comes from a guy who became a classic of the former even before his death and that he picked up some below the average examples of the latter, I agree.
The stories themselves left me out cold for the most part. I can actually describe the plot in practically all of them at once. A trouble starts involving a damsel in distress. A tough guy emerges (usually a PI or a good cop) who gets involved, gets knocked out, and shot at. It turns out the damsel in distress is a minor culprit which makes her a femme fatale. Everybody and their brother meet at the main villain place, a big shootout is insured. Everybody dies except for the tough guy with a heard of gold and the femme fatale who emerge unscratched; the latter escapes. The end. All of these tough guys come out somewhat wooden and nobody can hold a candle to Philip Marlowe who feels real.
One short story deserves to be mentioned separately. Pearls Are a Nuisance is a humorous hard-boiled story; it is the only such story from the master of noir and I am actually glad he had not written more; humor is not his forte. His witty one-liners of Philip Marlowe are great and make this character come alive, but his is the only example where Chandler's humor works.
None of the story is boring or bad however. The author really raised the standard of the genre so high in the later works that his own early writings look pale in comparison. The final rating is 3.5 stars
This review is a copy/paste of my BookLikes one: http://gene.booklikes.com/post/964996/this-collection-of-short-stories-falls-short-of-my-usual-expectations-regarding-chandler-s-writing