“The realistic style is easy to abuse. It is easy to fake; brutality is not strength, flipness is not wit, edge-of-the-chair writing can be as boring as flat writing.” – Raymond Chandler
Raymond Chandler, born in Chicago, Illinois in 1888, was an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and author known for seminal detective novels like The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye. These two, along with My Lovely were made into films, and Chandler was also a Hollywood screenwriter – he received Academy Award nominations for his work on Double Indemnity (1943) and The Blue Dahlia (1946). Chandler went on to write a total of seven novels in his lifetime, with his later output including The Little Sister (1949) and Playback (1958).
Born in Chicago in 1888, he relocated with his mother to South London, England upon his parents’ divorce, and starting in 1900 attended the Dulwich School, eventually leaving for business studies in France. He became a naturalized British citizen and worked as a journalist before returning to the United States in 1912, settling in Southern California, where he would live for the rest of his life.
After serving in the first World War, Chandler took on a bookkeeping job with an oil company, working his way up to a top position. He also married artist’s model Cissy Pascal in 1924. Chandler lost his job in the early 1930s, and hence returned to his earlier love of writing, crafting stories that would find a home in pulp fiction magazines The Black Mask and Dime Detective.
In 1939, he debuted his popular first novel The Big Sleep, followed by Farewell, My Lovely (1940) and The High Window (1942). His books featured the detective Philip Marlowe, who became an iconic figure of the fictional private investigator genre, an enduring and popular theme, with Chandler becoming renowned for his distinctive language, ideas and vision of Los Angeles at the time. He has been compared with fellow crime novelist Dashiell Hammett, whose many works were printed as green-covered Penguin Crime classics.
Chandler’s first novel became a classic 1946 film, with Humphrey Bogart portraying Philip Marlowe opposite Lauren Bacall. Farewell, My Lovely was adapted to the big screen in 1944 (renamed Murder, My Sweet) and 1975, with Marlowe played by Dick Powell and Robert Mitchum, respectively. And Chandler’s 1953 novel The Long Goodbye was also made into a 1973 movie by director Robert Altman.
By the 1940s, Chandler was working as a Hollywood screenwriter and collaborated with director Billy Wilder on Double Indemnity , and wrote his screenplay for The Blue Dahlia.
When his wife died in 1954, Chandler became depressed and apparently attempted suicide, though his biographer Frank MacShane also notes Chandler might have been interested in men, still socially unacceptable at the time. Chandler suffered from a variety of health issues and his physical decline was only increased by a love of alcohol. He died from bronchial pneumonia on March 26, 1959 in La Jolla, California.