Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Raymond Thornton Chandler was born in Chicago on July 23, 1888. He was the only child of Maurice Benjamin Chandler, a railroad worker, and Florence Dart Chandler (né Thornton), an Irishwoman who immigrated to Plattsmouth, Nebraska. Maurice was an alcoholic, and he and Florence were divorced when their son was seven years old. Raymond and his mother moved to London to live with his severe grandmother and his unmarried Aunt Ethel. His uncle, Ernest Thornton, an Irish solicitor, reluctantly supported this entire household. Chandler felt abandoned by his father and so developed a strong loyalty to his mother and a sense of justice that manifested itself later in his novels.
Chandler attended Dulwich College, a typical English public school. There he studied the Bible and the Greek and Roman classics, a course of study designed to teach a strict Victorian moral code emphasizing honor, public service, and self-denial. This code profoundly affected Chandler’s personality, and it formed the basis for the character of Philip Marlowe, the hero of Chandler’s best-known works.
In 1905, when he was seventeen, Chandler graduated from Dulwich near the head of his class. He wanted to go to a university to study law, but his uncle refused to pay his tuition, deciding instead that Chandler should seek a career in the government. Chandler spent a year...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Chandler’s hero, Philip Marlowe, is a perfectionist who hates the shallow values of American society. By the time of The Long Goodbye, set in 1951, the pockets of corruption that Chandler had depicted infecting Hollywood and Bay City in the 1930’s had spread over all Los Angeles, like the smog that now blanketed the city. Marlowe has grown tired and cynical. Still, he battles on, even while questioning his own motives and integrity.
Throughout Chandler’s seven novels, the character of Marlowe becomes increasingly complex. The Long Goodbye, Chandler’s penultimate book, is concerned more with theme, characterization, and description than it is with the mechanics of a mystery novel. It represents the fulfillment of Chandler’s desire to lift detective fiction to the realm of serious literature.
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Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Raymond Thornton Chandler, although he was born in Chicago and spent his first seven years in the Middle West, received an English Public School education (Dulwich College) when his mother took him to England after her divorce. He traveled in Europe, spent an unsatisfying few months in the British civil service, and set out to become a writer. After publishing a number of poems and essays, he returned to America in 1912. He worked at various jobs and in 1917 joined the Canadian Army and served in France. After the war, he became a successful oil executive in California and married Cissy Pascal, who was eighteen years his senior. Chandler’s dissatisfaction and drinking left him jobless in 1932. He turned to writing again and became the best of the Black Mask pulp writers before turning to novels with The Big Sleep in 1939. He was a successful and highly paid Hollywood screenwriter throughout the 1940’s. Following Cissy’s death in 1954, Chandler resumed his rootless life and heavy drinking. He visited England several times. When he died of pneumonia, on March 26, 1959, he was president of the Mystery Writers of America and was at work on another Philip Marlowe novel.
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Although his early ambition was to be a writer, Raymond Thornton Chandler did not begin the literary career that would win him fame until he was forty-five years old. This is only one of several incongruities in the life of one of America’s original literary talents.
Chandler was born in Chicago, in 1888, the only child of a railroad employee and an Irishwoman. The marriage was marred by his father’s alcoholism and ended in divorce when the boy was seven. Chandler and his mother moved to London and became dependent on his maternal uncle, a successful solicitor. Chandler went to Dulwich College, where he received the solid classical education characteristic of English public schools. He was at the head of his class in most of his subjects. After his graduation from Dulwich, Chandler claimed dual citizenship so that he could take the English civil service examinations, but he was unable to adapt to the bureaucratic environment and resigned his civil service appointment. He supported himself briefly by writing for magazines and newspapers and by publishing some undistinguished poems and a single story. He left England for the United States in 1912.
Chandler made his way to Southern California, where he began a relationship that was to dominate his literary life. Chandler despised the superficiality and pretentiousness of the California culture as well as its lack of tradition or continuity, but he intuited that this would be the culture of...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Mystery & Detective Fiction, Revised Edition)
Raymond Thornton Chandler was born on July 23, 1888, in Chicago, the only child of Maurice Benjamin Chandler and Florence Dart Thornton. Within a few years, his parents separated, and Maurice Chandler disappeared entirely. In 1896, Florence Chandler brought Raymond to London, where he attended Dulwich College. Chandler was an excellent student, and the experiences of a British public school education shaped his character indelibly. After leaving Dulwich in 1905, Chandler spent a year in France and then Germany; he then returned to England and secured a civil service job, which he left to become a writer. During this period, he wrote for various newspapers and composed some poetry (many of these pieces have been collected in Chandler Before Marlowe: Raymond Chandler’s Early Prose and Poetry, 1973). In 1912, he returned to the United States and settled in California, but, with the outbreak of World War I, he enlisted in the Canadian army, saw action, was injured, and eventually returned to civilian life and California.
In 1919, after various jobs, Chandler became an executive (eventually a vice president) with the Dabney Oil Syndicate, and after the death of his mother in 1924 he married Cissy Pascal, a woman sixteen years his senior. In 1932, as his drinking increased and his behavior became more erratic, Chandler was fired. In 1933, his first story was published in the pulp magazine Black Mask, and he continued writing stories for the...
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Raymond Thornton Chandler was one of the most significant writers of detective fiction in the United States. Like Dashiell Hammett, Chandler took the murder story out of the English drawing room and put it back on the mean streets, where violence and mayhem generally took place. He was the son of Maurice Benjamin Chandler, an engineer from Philadelphia, and Florence Thornton, from Waterford, Ireland. His father, who was an alcoholic, worked for various railroads, and the family lived a peripatetic existence. After his parents divorced, Chandler and his mother moved to London, living with her family. In 1900, he entered Dulwich College, one of the better English public schools. After leaving Dulwich, he sought a literary career and composed poetry and wrote reviews, but he met with only marginal success. In 1913, shortly before World War I, he returned to the United States and settled in Los Angeles.
In 1917, Chandler joined the Canadian army and fought on the western front. After the war, he returned to Southern California, and, although he still wanted to pursue a literary career, he became a businessman. Rootless in the most rootless of places, he married Cissy Pascal, who was eighteen years his senior. During the 1920’s, Chandler was a successful oil executive, but by the early 1930’s his life was in turmoil. He began drinking heavily, and in...
(The entire section is 830 words.)
Raymond Thornton Chandler was born July 23, 1888, in Chicago, Illinois, to Maurice Benjamin Chandler, a civil engineer, and Florence Thornton Chandler, a British immigrant. Chandlers' parents divorced when he was seven-years-old, he and his mother moved to London, England, to live with her family.
Chandler was educated at Dulwich College preparatory school, which taught students the value of public service and gentlemanly behavior as much as it did academic subjects such as mathematics and literature. After graduating from Dulwich, Chandler studied French in Paris, and spent time as a tutor in Germany before returning to England, where he worked as a civil servant for a brief period before growing disgusted with bureaucracy. In 1912, after trying and failing to make a living as a writer, Chandler moved back to the United States, where he worked at a variety of odd jobs until joining the Canadian army in 1917. Chandler saw limited time at the Western front in France during World War I and was training to be an air force pilot when the war ended. In 1924, Chandler married Pearl Cecily Eugenia Hurlburt, a woman twice-divorced and eighteen years his senior; the marriage lasted thirty years until her death in 1954. By the time of the marriage, Chandler had been employed for two years by Dabney Oil Syndicate in Los Angeles, rising through the ranks to become a vice president. His affairs with office workers and his heavy drinking, however, led to his dismissal...
(The entire section is 482 words.)