Chandler’s Drunken Letters

I have spent the day reading some of Chandler’s later letters. In 1958 he corresponded with Wilbur J Smith at UCLA. Smith was trying to convince Chandler to donate his manuscripts to the Special Collection archive and Raymond, being a lonely man, started to write much longer and more discursive letters than were necessary. Unlike his correspondence with James Sandoe, these letters are repetitive and lack focus. He repeats, at least three times, his method of writing his first drafts: “I do all my work on yellow paper, sheets cut in half, typed the long way, triple spaced. The pages run from 125 to 150 words and they are so short that you don’t get prolix. If there isn’t a little meat on each, something is wrong.” (Letter Oct 1 1958 Raymond Chandler – Wilbur J Smith, Collection 638 Box 2 UCLA Special Collections).

The repetitive nature of these letters – and some contradictions about the right content for a novel, a subject I will come back to – made me realize for the first time quite how drunk Chandler was in his final year. Yes, he had been incapacitated in the past, but this was a new level of alcoholism that signified the beginning of the end for Raymond.


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