From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Raymond Thornton Chandler (July
23, 1888 – March 26, 1959) was an
Anglo-American novelist and screenwriter
who 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
Marlowe, is, along with
Dashiell Hammett's Sam
synonymous with "private
Chandler was born in Chicago, Illinois,
in 1888, but moved to the United
Kingdom in 1900 with
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. In
1900, after attending a local school in Upper
Norwood, Chandler was classically educated at Dulwich
College, London (the public
school that also taught P.G.
Wodehouse to write prose and
which also taught 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
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 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
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, California.
He soon began a love affair with Cissy Pascal, a married woman eighteen years
his senior. Cissy
divorced her husband, Julian, in 1920 in what was 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 26 September 1923, Raymond was free to
marry Cissy 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, and
to his firing.
To earn a living with his creative talent, he taught himself to write pulp
fiction; his first story, “Blackmailers Don't Shoot”, was published in Black
Mask magazine in 1933; his
first novel, The
Big Sleep, was published in 1939.
Literary success led to work as aHollywood screenwriter:
he and Billy
Wilder co-wrote Double
based upon James
M. Cain's novel of the
same name. His only original screenplay was The
Blue Dahlia (1946).
Chandler collaborated on the screenplay of Alfred
on a Train (1951)
- a story he thought implausible - based on Patricia
By then, the Chandlers had moved to La
Jolla, California, an affluent coastal neighborhood of San Diego.
life and death
In 1954, Cissy Chandler died after a long illness, during which time Raymond
Chandler wrote The
Long Goodbye. His subsequent loneliness worsened his natural
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.
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's wife), the latter two of whom assumed Chandler to be a repressed
Judith Freeman's book perpetuates errors dating back to the Frank MacShane
biography relating to the death of Florence Chandler and a number of
After a respite in England (Chandler regained US citizenship in 1956.),
he returned to La Jolla, where he died (according to the death certificate) of
pneumonial peripheral vascular shock and prerenal uremia in the Scripps
Memorial Hospital. Greene inherited the Chandler estate, after prevailing in a
lawsuit vs. 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.