Hard-boiled detective fiction--in unique writing style of Raymond Chandler

Chandler

A collection of Chandlers later works plus essays and letters
A collection of Chandlers later works plus essays and letters
The image is of a posterfor the James Garner movie "Marlowe". It is felt that use of scaled down, low resolution image used for commentary on the film is fair use. copyright is most likely owned by publisher or creator of the work depicted.. image fo
The image is of a posterfor the James Garner movie "Marlowe". It is felt that use of scaled down, low resolution image used for commentary on the film is fair use. copyright is most likely owned by publisher or creator of the work depicted.. image fo

Raymond Chandler

Acknowledging a debt to Dashiell Hammett, Chandler further developed the American style detective story, known as the hard-boiled school. Both men probably owe a dept to Earnest Hemingway for style and realism. Chandler, like Hammett was published originally in the “pulp” magazines of the of the 1920s and 1930s. With his first story, “Blackmailers Don’t Shoot” published in Black Mask Magazine in 1939.

I believe I first knew his character, Phillip Marlowe, like Hammett’s, Sam Spade, on the radio, Marlowe was played by Van Heflin in 1947 and Gerald Mohr in 1948. In movies, both Hammett’s Sam Spade and Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe were played by Humphrey Bogart. Marlowe has also been played by Robert Montgomery and Dick Powell. Probably the most unusual casting was James Garner in the 1969 film “Marlowe” It was an amusing film but Garner was rather miscast as the hard-boiled detective.

Chandler, in addition to writing mystery stories, worked for a time as a scriptwriter in Hollywood and wrote literary criticism of the detective and mystery genre. He also wrote about Hollywood rather critically.

His critical writings were somewhat a defense of the American detective story as opposed to the classic mysteries being written by English writers such as Dorothy L. Sayers and Agatha Christie. To a large extent, I think, it was something of the long running conflict between Romanticism and Realism, reminiscent of Mark Twain’s criticism of James Fenimore Cooper. His essay “The Simple Art of Murder” has become a standard reference on the mystery story.

Born in Chicago in 1888 Chandler moved with his mother at the age of 12 to the United Kingdom. His father had abandoned the family. His uncle, a successful lawyer, supported them. For a short time he went to a local school in Upper Norwood but then went to Dulwich College, London, which was the school that taught P.G. Wodehouse and C.S Forester. I once read that due to his living in both England and America his writing style seemed to combine the British and American.


He did not go to the University but spent time in Paris and Munich. In 1907 he became a naturalized British subject in order to take the Civil Service exam. He took an Admiralty job which he held for about a year and published his first poem during this period.

Disliking civil service he took a job as a reporter for the Daily Express and the Bristol Western Gazette. However, He didn’t do well in journalism but published reviews and wrote romantic poetry. Returning to America in 1913 he settled in Los Angeles with his mother. He did odd jobs and then took a correspondence course in bookkeeping at which he found steady employment.

He entered World War I by enlisting in the Canadian Expeditionary Force and saw combat with the Gordon Highlanders. At the end of the war he was taking flight training with the Royal Air Force. Again he returned to Los Angeles and had a love affair with Cissy Pascal who was married and 18 years older than he was. She divorced her husband but Chandlers’s mother refused to sanction the marriage. After his mother died, he married Cissy in 1924. In 1954 Cissy died. He had a tendency to clinical depression and it worsened after her death. He returned to drinking and his writing suffered. In 1955 he attempted suicide.

He returned to Los Angeles after the war. In 1932 he became a vice-president of the Dabney oil Syndicate. However, after a year he was fired due to alcoholism, absenteeism and threats of suicide.

Critically he was not always received well in his own time. However, he has been admired by such writers as Evelyn Waugh and Ian Fleming. Although much of his prose was inspired by Hammett, he had sharp and lyrical similes of his own.

His stories capture the feel of Los Angeles in the 1930's and 1940's. He gave fictional names to real places, such as Bay City for Santa Monica.

In 1959 Chandler died in La Jolla at the Scripps Memorial Hospital.





He did not go to the University but spent time in Paris and Munich. In 1907 he became a naturalized British subject in order to take the Civil Service exam. He took an Admiralty job which he held for about a year and published his first poem during this period.

Disliking civil service he took a job as a reporter for the Daily Express and the Bristol Western Gazette. However, He didn’t do well in journalism but published reviews and wrote romantic poetry. Returning to America in 1913 he settled in Los Angeles with his mother. He did odd jobs and then took a correspondence course in bookkeeping at which he found steady employment.

He entered World War I by enlisting in the Canadian Expeditionary Force and saw combat with the Gordon Highlanders. At the end of the war he was taking flight training with the Royal Air Force. Again he returned to Los Angeles and had a love affair with Cissy Pascal who was married and 18 years older than he was. She divorced her husband but Chandlers’s mother refused to sanction the marriage. After his mother died, he married Cissy in 1924. In 1954 Cissy died. He had a tendency to clinical depression and it worsened after her death. He returned to drinking and his writing suffered. In 1955 he attempted suicide.

He returned to Los Angeles after the war. In 1932 he became a vice-president of the Dabney oil Syndicate. However, after a year he was fired due to alcoholism, absenteeism and threats of suicide.

Critically he was not always received well in his own time. However, he has been admired by such writers as Evelyn Waugh and Ian Fleming. Although much of his prose was inspired by Hammett, he had sharp and lyrical similes of his own.

His stories capture the feel of Los Angeles in the 1930s and 1940s. He gave fictional names to real places, such as Bay City for Santa Monica.

In 1959 Chandler died in La Jolla at the Scripps Memorial Hospital.


© 2010 Don A. Hoglund

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Comments 24 comments

thevoice profile image

thevoice 6 years ago from carthage ill

best hub yet


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thank you for the comment. Glad you like it.


jstankevicz profile image

jstankevicz 6 years ago from Cave Creek

Chandler's last book, Poodle Springs was completed by Robert B. Parker years later. Sadly, Parker passed away in Feb of this year. Great Hub on a great mystery writer.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Yes, Parker was an heir to Chandler.I first knew him from the "spencer' series on TV. Thanks for the comment.


freelancewriterva profile image

freelancewriterva 6 years ago

This hubpage was researched carefully. Excellent!!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thank you for the complimentary words.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

It would seem that Raymond Chandler had a difficult life for the most part. Thanks for the research you put into this informative hub.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I always thought it odd that someone who more or less failed at everything else became a successful writer. Thanks for commenting.


freelancewriterva profile image

freelancewriterva 6 years ago

i read the hubpage again and Raymond Chandler's life was made more interesting understanding the lack of college education.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

He was definitely an unusual talent.Thanks fro your interest.


toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago

Raymond Chandler was a talented writer. I never the other aspects of his life. Thanks for putting this wonderful hub together.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Yes,Chandler was a great writer,I think.Thanks for reading.


ruffridyer 5 years ago from Dayton, ohio

My favorite mystery writers are Mickey Spillane, John Sanderford and Andrew Vachess. I am sure they owe a lot to Chandler and Hammett. I wonder where the term Hard-boiled detective came from. nice work.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I guess it is an analogy to hardboiled eggs as being tough.Today we use the term "attitude" to mean much the same thing.Max Allen Collins is sort of a younger writer who is influenced by Spillane.Thanks for commenting.


ajwrites57 profile image

ajwrites57 3 years ago from Pennsylvania

dahoglund -- I could read the books by and watch the movies influenced by Hammett, Chandler or Hemingway. These fellows led interesting lives and lived through world changing times. This is reflected in their hard-boiled, masculine world views. Thanks for reminding me of these guys. Maybe i'll dust off a few dust covers and re-read them!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 3 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

ajwrites, yes, they all were influenced by real life-although not exactly imitators of life. Thanks for your comment.


ajwrites57 profile image

ajwrites57 3 years ago from Pennsylvania

Welcome dahoglund--I have to say, one of my favorite actors is Humphrey Bogart, so as Marlowe or Spade i enjoyed his bring those characters to life--wish there were more.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 3 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I think I was introduced to the hard boiled stories by radio. I didn't know who wrote them but I liked listening to the tales of Hammett, Chandler and others on the radio when I was young.


ajwrites57 profile image

ajwrites57 3 years ago from Pennsylvania

It was TV for me--I used to watch movies with my mother when i was an infant--loved them then love them now. She told me when we'd go to the drive in when I was about 2 or 3 that i'd stand up on the seat so i wouldn't fall asleep. lol


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 3 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

It is generational, I think. We didn't have TV until I was in High School. There are recordings of the old shows but the atmosphere would be hard to duplicate.


ajwrites57 profile image

ajwrites57 3 years ago from Pennsylvania

Yes--I've seen shows--movies and the intensity of those listening to the radio is amazing. One radio channel in my area would put some of the shows on--Dick Tracy, The Shadow--not the same for me listening, as it was for you at the time, I think.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 3 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

They don't impact me as much now as the once did.


Les Trois Chenes profile image

Les Trois Chenes 2 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

I've been listening to some of the Phillip Marlowe stories on the radio and really enjoying them. Must try reading some of the books.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 2 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Glad to see you here Les Trois Chenes, thanks for commenting. Chandler was a great writer.

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