Raymond Chandler, a renowned American novelist and screenwriter, was born on 23rd July 1888 in Chicago, Illinois. Abandoned by his father, Chandler was sent off to London for good education in 1900. He studied at Dulwich College which was a very good public school. He could not attend university however he worked on his language skills while in Paris and Munich. Chandler took up a job as a civil servant but he never adjusted to the servility. So he quit and decided to pursue a career in writing. He started as a reporter to ‘Daily Express’ and ‘Western Gazette’ newspapers. Unfortunately he never really succeeded as a journalist as his true passion lay in writing. Life did not go very easy on him during this time. He left this job to return to San Francisco. He did a bookkeeping course from there and moved to Los Angeles where he lived with his mother. Money was scarce while Chandler struggled to find a decent job.
When the First World War started, Raymond Chandler enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. After the war ended he came back to Los Angeles when a love affair sparked between him and Cissy Pascal. She was 18 years older than him and was the mother of a fellow army man who had enlisted with Chandler. His mother was strictly against this relationship so even though Cissy divorced her husband to marry Chandler, he could not do so because of his mother’s strong disapproval. In 1923, Chandler’s mother died leaving him free to marry Cissy which he did on 6th February 1924.
By 1931 Chandler’s life had turned around completely and he was now at the respected position as vice president of ‘Dabney Oil Syndicate’ in 1932. His scanty financial situation was what made him turn to writing during the Depression. He used his writing talent to make a living and thus his first published work came out in 1933 in the ‘Black Mask’ magazine and was called ‘Blackmailers Don’t Shoot’. ‘The Sleep’ was his first novel published in 1939 featuring ‘Philip Marlowe’ his famous detective character that also appeared in his other novels. The final novels of this character are ‘The Long Goodbye’ and ‘Playback’ both published in 1946.
His second ‘Philip Marlowe’ novel was ‘Farewell, My Lovely’ (1940). This book was made into a film adaptation. Chandler’s own first screenplay was called ‘The Blue Dahlia’ (1946). His other screenplays include ‘Double Indemnity’, ‘And Now Tomorrow’, ‘The Unseen’, ‘Strangers on a Train’ and ‘Playback’. All his books were made into film adaptions except for ‘Playback’.
His wife Cissy died in 1954 leaving Raymond Chandler severely heartbroken. He entered clinical depression and started drinking excessively. He also attempted a suicide which failed. Chandler died due to pneumonial peripheral vascular shock and prerenal uremia on 26th March 1959. He left behind an unfinished novel which was later completed and published by Robert B. Parker. Before his death he was also elected as the president of ‘Mystery Writers of America’.