Creating in Flow

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12 Surprising Facts About Raymond Chandler

The famous pulp writer never meant to be only that.

Philip Marlowe
My knowledge of famous author Raymond Chandler comes only from the films made from his novels, like The Long Goodbye and The Big Sleep. I had a particular image of him, though, which was utterly turned on its head when I read a new Chandler biography called A Mysterious Something in the Light: The Life of Raymond Chandler.

English author Tom Williams, who spent six years doing the research, was unfamiliar with Los Angeles before he wrote this book. Of course, most of us, even long-time Angelenos, aren’t particularly familiar with the Los Angeles of the 1920s and 1930s.

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The biography is detailed, never dull, and certain to be especially satisfying for fans of Chandler’s hard-boiled thrillers that feature Philip Marlowe. Williams notes (and conjectures) numerous connections between Chandler’s own life and the personality and times of his famous detective.

Here are just a few of the surprises awaiting readers with little previous knowledge of the iconic novelist:

1. Raymond Chandler was born in Chicago of an Irish-born mother, and was descended from Quakers on both sides of his family.

2. At age 12, his mother moved with him to Ireland, and soon after to England, where Chandler completed the equivalent of a private high school and absorbed class distinctions.

3. An outsider again and again, Chandler felt like a man without a country whether he was in London, or visiting Paris or Germany after graduation. He made few friends when he later lived in California. He moved a lot, so that he had to begin again in La Jolla and Riverside and Los Angeles.

4. He always intended to be a poet (though his poems were dated, sappy and sentimental).

5. Chandler became a naturalized U.S. citizen so he could get a civil service job.

6. He was an alcoholic like his father had been.

7. He took a correspondence course in short story writing before selling to the pulps.

8. He didn’t publish his first book until he was in his 50s, in 1939.

9. He wrote scripts in Hollywood, once working with Hitchcock, with whom he didn’t get along.

10. He had many affairs but loved and depended on one woman throughout most of his life, falling apart without her.

11. He sometimes tossed a whole manuscript and began again. He wrote to his agent in 1951: “That’s the hell of being the kind of writer who cannot plan anything, but has to make it up as he goes along and then try to make sense out of it.”

12. His life ended without his ever fulfilling his non-genre literary ambitions.


Copyright (c) 2013 by Susan K. Perry

Follow me on Twitter @bunnyape


Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist and author. Her current focus is on the creative aspects of rationality and atheism.


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