See his collected early works, ed. by M. J. Bruccoli, Chandler before Marlowe (2d ed. 1973); Stories and Early Novels (1995) and Later Novels and Other Writings (1995), both ed. by F. MacShane; his letters, ed. by F. MacShane (1981), The Raymond Chandler Papers: Selected Letters and Nonfiction, 1909-1959 (2001), ed. by T. Hiney and F. MacShane; biographies by F. MacShane (1976, repr. 1986) and T. Hiney (1997); studies by J. Speir (1981) and W. Marling (1986).
(born July 23, 1888, Chicago, Ill., U.S.—died March 26, 1959, La Jolla, Calif.) U.S. writer of detective fiction. Chandler worked as an oil-company executive in California before turning to writing during the Great Depression. Early short stories were followed by screenplays, including Double Indemnity (1944), The Blue Dahlia (1946), and Strangers on a Train (1951). His character Philip Marlowe, a hard-boiled private detective working in the Los Angeles underworld, appears in all seven of his novels, including The Big Sleep (1939; film, 1946 and 1978), Farewell, My Lovely (1940; film Murder, My Sweet, 1944, and Farewell, My Lovely, 1975), and The Long Good-Bye (1953; film, 1973). Chandler and Dashiell Hammett are regarded as the classic authors of the hard-boiled genre.
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Chandler disliked the servile mindset of the civil service and quit, 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 checkered 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 repaid with interest), and returned to the U.S., eventually settling in Los Angeles. 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 a steady job. In 1917, when the U.S. 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 England at war’s end.
After the armistice, he returned to Los Angeles and his mother, and soon began a love affair with Cissy Pascal, a married woman eighteen years his senior. Chandler's mother, who had opposed the union, died on 26 September 1923, and not long after, in 1924, Chandler and Pascal married. By 1932, in the course of his bookkeeping career, he became a vice-president of the Dabney Oil syndicate, but a year later, his alcoholism, absenteeism, and a threatened suicide provoked his firing.
He regained US citizenship in 1956.
After his time in England he returned to La Jolla, where he died of pneumonial peripheral vascular shock and pre-renal uremia in the Scripps Memorial Hospital according to the death certificate. Helga Greene inherited the Chandler estate after a lawsuit with Jean Fracasse. Raymond Chandler is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery, San Diego, California, as per Frank MacShane, The Raymond Chandler Papers, Chandler directed he be buried next to Cissy, but wound up in the cemetery's Potter’s field, because of the lawsuit over his estate.
The high critical regard in which Chandler is generally held today is in contrast to the critical pans that stung Chandler in 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."
Chandler’s short stories and novels are evocatively written, conveying the time, place, and ambience 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 also was a perceptive critic of pulp fiction; his essay "The Simple Art of Murder" is the standard reference work in the field.
All of his novels have been cinematically adapted, notably The Big Sleep (1946), by Howard Hawks, with Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe; novelist William Faulkner was a co-screenplay writer. 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.
These are the criminal cases of Philip Marlowe, a Los Angeles private investigator. Their plots follow a pattern in which the men and women hiring him reveal themselves as corrupt, corrupting, and criminally complicit as those against whom he must protect his erstwhile employers.
Interestingly, in the 1950s radio series The Adventures of Philip Marlowe, that included adaptations of the short stories, the Philip Marlowe name was replaced with the names of other detectives, e.g. Steve Grayce, in The King in Yellow. In fact, such changes restored the stories to their originally published versions. It was later, when they were republished, as Philip Marlowe stories that the Philip Marlowe name was used, with the exception being The Pencil.
Most of the short stories published before 1940 appeared in pulp magazines like Black Mask, and so had a limited readership. Chandler was able to recycle the plot lines and characters from those stories when he turned to writing novels intended for a wider audience.
I'll Be Waiting, The Bronze Door and Professor Bingo's Snuff all feature unnatural deaths and investigators (a hotel detective, Scotland Yard and California local police, respectively), but the emphasis is not on the investigation of the deaths.
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