Raymond Chandler Additional 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.)


(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.


(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.)


(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.)