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Chandler, Raymond


American writer of hard-boiled detective novels, Raymond Chandler (July 23, 1888–March 26, 1959) helped develop the genre and stretch its limitations. Born in Chicago, Chandler was seven years old when his parents divorced and his mother took him to England to live. He attended Dulwich College, a preparatory school, from 1896 to 1905. In 1907 he became a British subject. After working as a civil servant and a reporter, and after publishing poems, literary essays, and fiction without achieving much success, Chandler returned to the United States in 1912. In World War I he served at the western front with the Canadian army. After the war Chandler worked as a reporter and bookkeeper in California. He married Cissy Pascal, a woman seventeen years his senior, in 1924. In 1932, after ten years with the Dabney Oil Syndicate, he was fired for drinking, absenteeism, and involvement with women who worked for him.

Out of work, he began writing "hard-boiled detective stories," which were published in Black Mask and other detective magazines. His first novel, The Big Sleep (1939), introduced Philip Marlowe as Chandler's detective and narrator. Marlowe's sardonic wisecracks and idealistic outlook gave The Big Sleep and the novels that followed a style and substance that moved them beyond the limitations of the detective novel towards the techniques and concerns of the serious novel, particularly those concerns raised by the Depression. Marlowe, as Chandler's spokesman in the novels, pointedly comments on class and wealth as corrupting influences on American society. Chandler's large cast of characters provides a cross section of American life, and his tangled plots and the atmosphere of the urban jungle suggest the complexities of the modern world. Marlowe's idealism leads him to seek meaning, order, and justice in the increasingly meaningless, chaotic, and corrupt world, and Marlowe's inevitable failure and disillusionment at the end of the novels make him a particularly modern antihero. Chandler's most highly regarded novels besides The Big Sleep are Farewell, My Lovely (1940), The High Window (1942), Lady in the Lake (1943), The Little Sister (1949), and The Long Goodbye (1954). Chandler also was a successful screenwriter, most notably for such movies as Double Indemnity (1944), The Blue Dahlia (1946), and Strangers on a Train (1951). Devastated by his wife's death in 1954, Chandler attempted suicide and was hospitalized several times for depression and alcohol-related health problems before he died on March 26, 1959.



Gardiner, Dorothy, and Kathrine Sorley Walker, eds. Raymond Chandler Speaking. 1977.

Hiney, Tom. Raymond Chandler: A Biography. 1997.

MacShane, Frank. The Life of Raymond Chandler. 1976.

Speir, Jerry. Raymond Chandler. 1981.

Austin Wilson

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