I headed into downtown Los Angeles yesterday afternoon to visit the Bank of Italy buidling where Raymond Chandler had his office in the 1920s. Then, he worked for Dabney Oil and he did very well at the company, starting off as an accountant and working his way up to being a Vice-President before being dismissed in 1932 for drinking and absenteeism. The building itself, like a lot of downtown LA, is in disrepair. Currently it is abandoned which is sad as it is a beautiful building, not that my pictures show it in its full glory. Next door is The Seven Grand Whisky Bar, an upscale cocktail place popular with LA’s young crowd. I think, somehow, that Chandler would have approved.
What Chandler would have made of the state of the rest of downtown LA is amusing to guess at. In the High Window he brilliantly evoked the way that Bunker Hill had changed from an upscale to a downscale residence and he would have had great fun with the current state of the city.
Chandler’s experiences downtown are important to his growth as a writer. He was, during his time at the Bank of Italy building, at the heart of LA’s political hub. He would have heard about the corruption and the cover-ups early on as gossip in the city spread. It was here that he breathed in LA’s fetid air and got to grips with it. Later, he would take his understanding of city life and rework it into his novels and short-stories. Without his oil work, he would not have been exposed to a lot of source material and we wouldn’t have had Marlowe, a point worth condsidering when we think about why Chandler was unsuccessful as a Bloomsbury writer.