Raymond Chandler
Born July 23, 1888(1888-07-23) Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died March 26, 1959(1959-03-26) (aged 70)La Jolla, California, United States
Occupation Novelist
Nationality American (1888–1907, 1956–59) British (1907–56)
Period 1933–59
Genres crime fiction, suspense, hardboiled


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Raymond Chandler

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Raymond Thornton Chandler (July 23, 1888 – March 26, 1959) was an American novelist and screenwriter.In 1932 after losing his job as an oil company executive, Chandler at age forty-five and during the Depression decided to become a writer. In 1933, he saw his first story published in a pulp magazine called Black Mask. His first novel, The Big Sleep was published in 1939. In addition to his short stories, Chandler published only seven novels during his life. In the year before he died, he was elected president of the Mystery Writers of America. He died on March 26, 1959 in La Jolla California.Chandler had an immense stylistic influence upon the modern private detective story, especially in the style of the writing and the attitudes now characteristic of the genre. His protagonist, Philip Marlowe, along with Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade, is considered synonymous with "private detective",[citation needed] both being played on screen by Humphrey Bogart.Some of Chandler's novels are considered to be important literary works. Of the seven complete novels written by Chandler, three are considered by some to be masterpieces: Farewell, My Lovely (1940), The Little Sister (1949), and The Long Goodbye (1953). The Long Goodbye is praised within an anthology of American crime stories as "arguably the first book since Hammett's The Glass Key, published more than twenty years earlier, to qualify as a serious and significant mainstream novel that just happened to possess elements of mystery".

Chronology of Chandler's Life

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Chandler was born in Chicago Illinois on July 23, 1888. After his parents divorced in 1895, he and his Irish mother moved to London. He attended Dulwich College as a day student from 1900 to 1904 (age 12 to 16). From 1905 to 1906 (age 17-18) he attended language schools in France and Germany in preparation for British Civil Service examinations. In 1907 (age 19) he returned to London and began service with the British Admiralty. From 1909 to 1912 he resigned from the Admiralty and worked as a free-lance journalist writing poems, reviews, sketches, and translations for The Westminster Gazette and The Academy.

In 1912 he returned to the United States and spent time in St. Louis and Omaha before settling in California. He made money by performing odd jobs, working for a sporting goods firm, and working as a ranch hand.

During the period 1913 through 1917, Chandler enrolled in a night-school bookkeeping course and worked as an accountant for the Los Angeles Creamery. During this period his mother came to live with him. In 1917 (age 29) he enlisted in the Canadian Army and became a member of the 7th Battalion of Canadian Expeditionary Force. He served in the trenches and was promoted to Sergeant. In June of 1918 he was transferred to Royal Air Force (RAF) from which he was discharged in 1919.

During the period 1919 through 1922, Chandler worked at a bank in San Francisco, then returned to Los Angeles where he worked for The Daily Express. He also began an affair with Cissy Pascal who was seventeen years older than he and married. Ms. Pascal later divorced her second husband. In 1922 he began a job with the Dabney Oil Syndicate as a bookkeeper and soon rose to Vice-President. In 1924 Chandler's mother died and he married Cissy Pascal.

In 1932 (age 44), Chandler was fired from his job for drinking and absenteeism. He then traveled to Seattle without his wife, but returned after becoming ill. In 1933 he studied Erle Stanley Gardner and the works of other pulp fiction authors, then spent five months writing his first story "Black Mailers Don't Shoot". He lived in and around Los Angeles from 1934–39 and wrote twenty stories for pulp magazines.

In 1939 Chandler published his first novel, The Big Sleep. From 1940 through 1943 he published short stories in the pulp magazines and wrote three novels: Farewell My Lovely (1940), The High Window (1942), and The Lady in the Lake (1943). In 1943 Chandler and Billy Wilder created a screen play from James M. Cain's crime novel, Double Indemnity for Paramount Studios.

Chandler worked for several film studios from 1944–46. He was open in his dislike for the industry. In 1946 he won the Edgar Allen Poe Award, moved to La Jolla, California, and began his detachment from the movie industry.

In 1949, Chandler published the novel, The Little Sister. He began another novel, The Long Goodbye, as his wife's health deteriorated. In 1950 he published The Simple Art of Murder and worked with Hitchcock on the film version of Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith.

In 1953 (age 65) Chandler published The Long Goodbye "cementing Chandler's literary standing among critics on both sides of the Atlantic".

In 1954 Chandler's wife Cissy died and he attempted suicide shortly afterwards. He spent a brief amount of time in a psychiatric hospital. From 1955–57, Chandler divided his time between Europe and La Jolla living mostly in hotels and drinking heavily.

In February 1958 he traveled to London. In April he traveled to Capri and Naples, where he interviewed Lucky Luciano for an article that was never published. In May he became ill and recuperated in a London nursing home. Playback was published in July. Chandler returned to La Jolla in August where he resumed his heavy drinking and was hospitalized. He had disputes over his will and with domestic and secretarial help.

In February 1959 he proposed marriage to Helga Greene. In March he traveled to New York to accept the presidency of Mystery Writers of America and contracted pneumonia.

On March 26, 1959 Chandler died in the Scripps Clinic, La Jolla, California at age 70.

Early life

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Chandler was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1888, and moved to London, United Kingdom in 1900 with his Irish-born mother after they were abandoned by his father, an alcoholic civil engineer who worked for a North American railway company. His uncle, a successful lawyer, supported them. After attending a local school in Upper Norwood, Chandler was classically educated at Dulwich College, London (a public school whose alumni also include the authors P.G. Wodehouse and C. S. Forester). He did not attend university, instead spending time in Paris and Munich. In 1907, he was naturalised as a British subject in order to take the civil service examination, which he passed with the third-highest score. He then took an Admiralty job, lasting just over a year. His first poem was published during that time.

Chandler disliked the servility of the civil service and resigned, to the consternation of his family, becoming a reporter for the Daily Express and the Bristol Western Gazette newspapers. He was an unsuccessful journalist, published reviews and continued writing romantic poetry. Accounting for that time he said, “Of course in those days as now there were… clever young men who made a decent living as freelances for the numerous literary weeklies…” but “…I was distinctly not a clever young man. Nor was I at all a happy young man.”

In 1912, he borrowed money from his uncle (who expected it to be repaid with interest), and returned to North America, eventually settling in Los Angeles with his mother in 1913. He strung tennis rackets, picked fruit and endured a lonely time of scrimping and saving. Finally, he took a correspondence bookkeeping course, finished ahead of schedule, and found steady employment. In 1917, when the US entered World War I, he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, saw combat in the trenches in France with the Gordon Highlanders, and was undergoing flight training in the fledgling Royal Air Force (RAF) in the United Kingdom at war’s end.

After the armistice, he returned to Los Angeles. He soon began a love affair with Cissy Pascal, a married woman eighteen years his senior. Cissy divorced her husband, Julian, in 1920 in an amicable separation, but Chandler's mother disapproved of the relationship and refused to sanction marriage. For four years Chandler had to support both his mother and Cissy. But when Florence Chandler died on September 26, 1923, Raymond was free to marry Cissy, and did so on February 6, 1924. By 1932, during his bookkeeping career, he became a highly paid vice-president of the Dabney Oil Syndicate, but a year later, his alcoholism, absenteeism, promiscuity with female employees and threatened suicide contributed to his firing.

His Life as a Writer

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In 1950, Chandler described in a letter to his English publisher, Hamish Hamilton, why he began reading pulp magazines and later wrote for them:

Cornered by dwindling financial circumstances, Chandler turned to earning a living from his latent creative talent, teaching himself to write pulp fiction by deconstructing the Perry Mason story formula of Earle Stanley Gardner; Chandler's first professional work, “Blackmailers Don't Shoot”, was published in Black Mask magazine in 1933; his first novel, The Big Sleep, featuring his famous Phillip Marlowe detective character speaking in the first person, was published in 1939, a book which "cannibalized", in Chandler's words, some of his earlier short stories.

His second Marlowe novel, "Farewell My Lovely," ultimately became the basis for three movie versions adapted by other screenwriters, including "Murder My Sweet" (1944) which marked the screen debut of the Marlowe character, played by Dick Powell, (whom Chandler applauded in the role as a true depiction of his vision). Literary success and the film adaptations led to demand for Chandler himself as a Hollywood screenwriter: he and Billy Wilder, an odd and discordant couple of personalities, co-wrote Double Indemnity (1944), based upon James M. Cain's novel of the same name. The stylish, disturbing prototype noir screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award.

His only original screenplay was The Blue Dahlia (1946), which when the script still did not have a denouement, producer John Houseman relates Chandler, at that point attempting to dry out his pernicious alcohol problem, agreed to complete the script as a favour to a fellow English public schoolboy only if allowed to do so drunk - and if Housman accepted the bet. It garnered Chandler's second Academy Award nomination for screenplay.

Chandler collaborated on the screenplay of Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (1951) – an ironic fantasy murder story based on Patricia Highsmith's novel – he thought implausible. It has widely related that Chandler's high strung personality clashed with another ego maniac in Hitchcock, to the extent they stopped talking after Hitchock heard Chandler refer to him as "that fat bastard" as he struggled to exit his limousine. Hitchock reportedly made a big show of throwing Chandler's two draft screenplay in the studio trash can holding his nose, even though Chandler's name remains the lead screenwriting credit with Czenzi Ormonde.

By then, the Chandlers had moved to La Jolla, California, an affluent coastal neighborhood of San Diego, signaling Raymond's distancing himself from the Hollywood community. Chandler there wrote the final two of his collection of seven finished Phillip Marlowe novels, "The Long Goodbye" and his last completed work, "Playback", derived from an unproduced courtroom drama screenplay he'd authored for Universal.

Four chapters of a novel unfinished at his death in 1959 were seamlessly transformed in 1989 into a final "Chandler" Phillip Marlowe book, "Poodle Springs" by mystery writer and Chandler admirer Robert B. Parker, author of the "Spencer for Hire" series. Parker shares the authorship with Chandler, and subsequently wrote entirely on his own a Marlowe sequel to "The Big Sleep" entitled "Perchance to Dream" which was salted with quotes from the original novel.

Chandler's final Marlowe short story circa 1957 was entitled "The Pencil", which later provided the basis of an episode for an HBO mini-series entitled "Phillip Marlowe, Private Detective" starring Powers Boothe as Marlowe (1983–86).

Dick Powell, Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, Robert Montgomery, George Montgomery, James Garner, James Caan, Elliot Gould, and Phillip Carey (TV series) all provided their personal incarnations of Phillip Marlowe on the screen.

Later life and death

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In 1954, Cissy Chandler died after a long illness, during which time Raymond Chandler wrote The Long Goodbye. Heartbroken and drunk, he neglected to inter Cissy's cremated remains, and they sat for 57 years in a storage locker. In a September 2010 San Diego Superior Court hearing an order was issued correcting this oversight, and on February 14, 2011, Cissy's cremated remains were interred under a new grave marker with Chandler, as they wished, in Mt. Hope. After her death his subsequent loneliness worsened his natural propensity for clinical depression; he returned to drink, never quitting it for long, and the quality and quantity of his writing suffered. In 1955, he attempted suicide; literary scholars documented that suicide attempt. In The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved, Judith Freeman says it was “a cry for help”, given that he called the police beforehand, saying he planned to kill himself. Chandler's personal and professional life were both helped and complicated by the women to whom he was attracted — notably Helga Greene (his literary agent); Jean Fracasse (his secretary); Sonia Orwell (George Orwell's widow); and Natasha Spender (Stephen Spender's wife), the latter two of whom assumed Chandler to be a repressed homosexual.

After a respite in England (Chandler regained US citizenship in 1956), he returned to La Jolla, where in 1959 he died (according to the death certificate) in the Scripps Memorial Hospital of pneumonial peripheral vascular shock and prerenal uremia. Greene inherited the Chandler estate, after prevailing in a lawsuit against Fracasse.

Raymond Chandler is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery, San Diego, California, as per Frank MacShane's, The Life of Raymond Chandler. Chandler wished to be cremated and placed next to Cissy in Cypress View Mausoleum, but was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery by the County of San Diego Public Administrator's Office because he left an estate of $60,000 with no will (intestate) apparently found. The lawsuit over his estate complicated life for Helga Greene, but didn't take place until 1960.

On Valentine's Day (February 14) 2011 the ashes of Chandler's wife Cissy were conveyed from Cypress View and placed in Chandler's grave during a ceremony attended by about one hundred people. This was the result of a legal pleading prepared by Chandler scholar Loren Latker with the assistance of attorney Aissa Wayne.

Chandler's Thoughts on Pulp Fiction

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In his introduction to Trouble Is My Business (1950), a collection of twelve of his short stories, Chandler provided insight on the formula for the detective story and how the pulp magazines differed from previous detective stories:

Chandler also described the struggle that the writers of pulp fiction had in following the formula demanded by the editors of the pulp magazines:

Critical reception

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Critics and writers from W. H. Auden to Evelyn Waugh to Ian Fleming, greatly admired Chandler's prose. In a radio discussion with Chandler, Fleming said that the former offered “some of the finest dialogue written in any prose today.” Although his swift-moving, hardboiled style was inspired mostly by Dashiell Hammett, his sharp and lyrical similes are original: "The muzzle of the Luger looked like the mouth of the Second Street tunnel;" "He had a heart as big as one of Mae West's hips;" "Dead men are heavier than broken hearts;" "I went back to the seasteps and moved down them as cautiously as a cat on a wet floor." Chandler's writing redefined the private eye fiction genre, led to the coining of the adjective 'Chandleresque', and inevitably became the subject of parody and pastiche. Yet the detective Philip Marlowe is not a stereotypical tough guy, but a complex, sometimes sentimental man with few friends who attended university, speaks some Spanish and sometimes admires Mexicans, and is a student of chess and classical music. He will refuse a prospective client’s money if he is ethically unsatisfied with a job.

The high regard in which Chandler is generally held today is in contrast to the critical sniping that stung the author during his lifetime. In a March 1942 letter to Mrs. Blanche Knopf, published in Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler, Chandler complained, "The thing that rather gets me down is that when I write something that is tough and fast and full of mayhem and murder, I get panned for being tough and fast and full of mayhem and murder, and then when I try to tone down a bit and develop the mental and emotional side of a situation, I get panned for leaving out what I was panned for putting in the first time."

Although his work enjoys general acclaim today, Chandler has been criticized for certain aspects of his work; in an interview Washington Post reviewer Patrick Anderson described his plots as "rambling at best and incoherent at worst", and chastised his treatment of black, female, and homosexual characters, calling him a "rather nasty man at times". Anderson nevertheless praised Chandler as "probably the most lyrical of the major crime writers."

Chandler’s short stories and novels are evocatively written, conveying the time, place and ambiance of Los Angeles and environs in the 1930s and 1940s. The places are real, if pseudonymous: Bay City is Santa Monica, Gray Lake is Silver Lake, and Idle Valley a synthesis of rich San Fernando Valley communities.

Raymond Chandler was also a perceptive critic of pulp fiction; his essay "The Simple Art of Murder" is the standard reference work in the field.

All but one of his novels have been cinematically adapted. Among the most notable are The Big Sleep (1946), by Howard Hawks, with Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe. William Faulkner was a co-writer on the screenplay. Raymond Chandler's few screen writing efforts and the cinematic adaptation of his novels proved stylistically and thematically influential upon the American film noir genre. Other examples include the use of a contimual first-person camera angle in Robert Montgomery's "Lady of the Lake" and the decidely offf-beat, updated version of the Long Goodbye by Robert Altman in 1973m, with Elliott Gould portraying a Philip marlowe for the later 20th century.

Praise for Chandler's Work

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“Chandler wrote like a slumming angel and invested the sun-blinded streets of Los Angeles with a romantic presence.” –Ross Macdonald

“Raymond Chandler invented a new way of talking about America, and America has never looked the same to us since.” –Paul Auster

“The prose rises to heights of unselfconscious eloquence, and we realize with a jolt of excitement that we are in the presence of not a mere action-tale teller, but a stylist, a writer with a vision…The reader is captivated by Chandler’s seductive prose.” –Joyce Carol Oates, New York Review of Books

“Chandler is one of my favorite writers. His books bear rereading every few years. The novels are a perfect snapshot of an American past, and yet the ruined romanticism of the voice is as fresh as if they were written yesterday.” –Jonathan Lethem

“Chandler seems to have invented our post-war dream lives–the tough but tender hero, the dangerous blonde, the rain-washed sidewalks, and the roar of the traffic (and the ocean) in the distance…Chandler is the classic lonely romantic outsider for our times, and American literature, as well as English, would be the poorer for his absence.” –Pico Iyer


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Further reading

Some of the content on this page has been provided by the following page on Wikipedia.org: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Chandler

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