Raymond Chandler Biography


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

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 studying in France and Germany and became a British citizen to qualify for the civil service examination, which he passed easily. Yet, after six months in his job as an accountant for the navy, he quit to become a writer, much to the chagrin of his Uncle Ernest.

Chandler spent the next few years writing for newspapers and submitting articles and reviews to literary magazines but made very little money from his writing. In 1912, when he was twenty-three years old, he borrowed five hundred pounds from his uncle and sailed to the United States. Chandler went to St. Louis, then to Nebraska. He soon moved on to Los Angeles, however, to stay with a family he had met on his passage to America. Warren Lloyd, the father, was a Ph.D. in philosophy who became moderately wealthy from his dealings in the oil business. He found Chandler a job, and Chandler joined his social circle. There Chandler met Cissy Pascal, who was then married to one of Lloyd’s friends.

Chandler’s mother joined him in Los Angeles in 1916. In 1917, he went to Canada to join...

(The entire section is 990 words.)

Raymond Chandler Biography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

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.

Raymond Chandler Biography

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

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.

Raymond Chandler Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

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 the future. One aim of his writing would be to record and comment on that culture. His immediate concern upon arriving was to find work, and he was involved in a variety of minor jobs until he completed a three-year bookkeeping course in six weeks. Thereafter, he was involved in various business enterprises until 1917, when he joined the Canadian army. He saw action in France during World War I; Chandler was the sole survivor of a raid on his outfit and was decorated for valor....

(The entire section is 791 words.)

Raymond Chandler Biography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery 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 next six years, until the publication of The Big Sleep in 1939. In 1943, after the publication of three novels and more stories, Chandler went to work for Paramount Studios as a screenwriter, eventually working on the scripts for Double Indemnity (1944) and The Blue Dahlia (1946), both of which were nominated for Academy Awards and the latter of which earned an Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America. With these successes, Chandler commanded increasingly higher salaries, largely unprecedented in their day.

Chandler left Hollywood in 1946 and moved to La Jolla, where he remained for the next ten years. After a long and painful illness, his wife died in 1954. The next year, Chandler drank heavily and attempted suicide, and from 1956 to 1957 he lived alternately in London and La Jolla. In 1955, he was awarded his second Edgar, for The Long Goodbye, and in 1959 he was elected president of the Mystery Writers of America, but within a month, on March 26, 1959, he died of pneumonia.

Raymond Chandler Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical 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...

(The entire section is 828 words.)

Raymond Chandler Biography

(Novels for Students)

Raymond Thornton Chandler was born July 23, 1888, in Chicago, Illinois, to Maurice Benjamin Chandler, a civil engineer, and Florence Thornton...

(The entire section is 482 words.)