WHERE THE TOUGH GUYS ARE RAYMOND CHANDLER: THE SIMPLE OF ART OF MURDER -- At the American Film Institute. This Friday, "The Blue Dahlia" and "Marlowe," 9:15 p.m.; Saturday, "Marlowe" and "The Blue Dahlia," 8:45 p.m.; Monday, "Strangers on a Train," 7 p.m.; Tuesday, "Double Indemnity," 6:30 p.m.; Wenesday, "The Brasher Doubloon" and "The Falcon Takes Over," 6:30 p.m.; Thursday, "Double Indemnity," 9 p.m.; June 14, "The Long Goodbye," 9 p.m.; June 16, "The Big Sleep," 6:30 p.m.; and June 18, "The Big Sleep," 9 p.m.

I was busted, Oh, I might not have looked it, but my soul was as flat as a hophead dolly after a charity trick. If I had been Picasso, the blue period would never have ended.

I couldn't shake it. I tried booze, and a bartender, but all it gave me was a sour stomach and the stale satisfaction of a cheap confessional. I picked up a saucy little convertible with a five-speed stick, a car you could ride like a horse, but the radio had the shakes. I bought a new garter belt, but it snapped.

I was tired of the flat ffluorescence of the office and the soft-yellow Sylvania of my flat. I wanted the needle of hot neon: the garish greens that bleed into the wet night air like watercolors, the yellow club lights blinking like cats' eyes. I wanted the whine of an off-key jukebox, the overcast of aging cigarette smoke, the bite of a nicked-up jigger in my hand. I wanted to feel the cool promise of bias-cut satin on my back and the secret insistence of a shoulder holster. I needed --

Someone like you, Sam, the kind of man you can depend on but never take for granted. A man who knows all the angles and most of the curves, with a past as shady as Springfield's Maple Street.

Someone like you, Marlowe, a smart guy, a troublemaker. He'd look at you, with the smoke hooding his face like a hat brim, and what was ice in his eyes was fire in another man's.

Someone like you, Nick, with a martini buzz and a good right hook, who carries a gun as casually as a gold Gaulois case. A man with a reputation and the wit to carry it softly.

A man who walked the fine line of the law, and sometimes both sides. Oh, he wouldn't take the rap for you -- his mother never raised no sap -- but he'd scuff up the evidence a little, confuse the cops so they couldn't make the collar stick. And he'd take the heat for it, too, but like he said, the caress of a rubber hose is warmer than the kiss off a pistol.

A man who played poker, and maybe blackjack, who could spot a rigged roulette wheel but not warn anybody except the kid with the desperate face and the 6'6" shadow. A man whose top shirt buttonhole closed up from never being used. A man who spent a quarter on shoeshine, a dime on Camels and a dollar on rye.

A man who knew the back alleys through Chinatown, who did the tong boss a favor once the bay and the houses of a thousand delights where dawn never came.

A man who looked out over the lights of Los Angeles and saw only the broken mirror of some small-town dream; who knew that the only angels in California are carved in stone. The last solitary man, the ill-armored knight whose chivalry limped under the weight of experience.

You were good, Sam -- you were very, very good.