Extraodinary Day

I’ve just had the most exciting couple of days at UCLA. One of the librarians approached me today and told me that she had some uncatalogued Chandler letters and asked if I would like to see them.

Yes, Please. I responded. And, a few minutes later I was pouring over a package of letters that I don’t think have been seen before by a biographer. My heart was thumping and my palms were sweaty as I read these new letters because they told me a lot of news things about Chandler. They shed light on his life in an entirely unexpected way and it was thrilling. I don’t want to go into too much detail yet but I will soon, I hope. And I think, when I do, I will be able to add to our understanding of Chandler.

Stay posted.


3 responses to “Extraodinary Day

  1. Hello Tom,
    Stumbled across your blog today while looking online for references to the 50th anniversary of Chandler’s death. Your re-reading of his letters, opportunity at UCLA to read “new” ones, and your proposed sharing of them through this blog and/or your book, is of particular interest. I read MacShane’s “Selected Letters” last year but it was only recently that I understood his editing practices have been challenged by later researchers. As a native Southern Californian (I’m in Hollywood) it’s also fun to read your take on the sights and architecture of LA, both that of Chandler’s own life and that of Marlowe’s. Per the introduction at your blog, I’m glad to see you do not plan to gloss over Chandler’s pre-pulps/novels/screenplays life. This period (about 2/3 of his life!) could really use some illumination. I look forward to future entries.

    • chandlerbiography

      Hello Kari, Thanks for getting in touch. I really do believe that the key to Chandler is the 20s and 30s, of course these are also the least documented period…though I have come across some very important new letters that shed light on the time, as mentioned. My approach to his life is literary and so the sort of thing that gets me going are letters about how he writes and how his style develops. Writers don’t just write…they learn to write, over time…the great thing about Chandler is that we can see HOW he did developed over time and that makes him pretty unusual.

      The McShane book was a very important publication, despite its errors. For one thing it helped firm up Chandler reputation. For another, it revealed a lot of valuable information about the man too. Without it, other letters may have been forgotten and the trials, such as they are, would have gone cold more quickly.

      It interests me that you live in the city. Since I moved here, I’ve met a lot of Angelenos and it disappoints me how few of them have even heard of Raymond Chandler.

  2. I didn’t mean to sound disparaging about MacShane’s “Selected Letters.” It’s a fantastic resource and even if we had only Chandler’s letters and none of his fiction, he still would have some measure of fame as a writer. I think reading the letters gave me an even greater appreciation of the fiction because of their (usually) vast difference in tone and style. And an appreciation of how hard Chandler had to work to make himself a crime fiction writer, to leach the failed Bloomsbury writer/poet of “grade B Georgian” from his prose. It’s been said before that Hammett was a detective learning to write and Chandler was a writer learning to be a detective and yes, you’re absolutely right, it is fascinating to read his fiction chronologically to see how he developed, weaning himself from Hammett, Gardner, etc.
    And it is a shame, as you point out, how few Angelenos are familiar with Chandler’s Los Angeles even though so many of them have been influenced, even if unknowingly, in their view of the city. People are often familiar with Humphrey Bogart in “The Big Sleep” but haven’t read the source novel.

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