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17 - Raymond Chandler

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2012

Timothy Parrish
Affiliation:
Florida State University
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Summary

Frank MacShane prefaces the first full-length biography of Raymond Chandler (1888–1959) with a warning that he is “treating Raymond Chandler as a novelist and not simply as a detective-story writer.” If only it were that easy. The tension between genre fiction and self-consciously literary writing animated – and irritated – Chandler for his entire writing career. Though he did not publish his first novel until he was past fifty, that career spanned the possibilities for an American writer at midcentury, from literary fiction to mass market paperbacks, with the wild card of the movies thrown in.

At his peak, Chandler transcended the crime genre within which he honed and practiced his craft. He was praised by the literati, imitated widely by his crime writer peers, and avidly read by the general public – all before his most ambitious book, The Long Goodbye (1953), even appeared.

No one would have predicted such success for Raymond Chandler in the early years of his career. Though he was once a hot prospect, the sales of Chandler’s early books discouraged him and his publisher. His reversal of fortune says something about the enduring qualities of his writing, especially his great creation, the private investigator Philip Marlowe. But it also tells us a lot about the workings of the American literary marketplace at a dynamic historical moment, and about the genre with which Raymond Chandler will, for better and worse, always be identified. Chandler’s ups and downs are a story with its own sense of mystery. You could call it “the alchemy of a best seller.”

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2012

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References

Abbott, Megan, The Street Was Mine: White Masculinity in Hardboiled Fiction and Film Noir, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gardiner, Dorothy and Walker, Kathrine Sorley (eds.), Raymond Chandler Speaking, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1977.
Horsley, Lee, Twentieth-Century Crime Fiction, Oxford and New York, Oxford University Press, 2005.Google Scholar
Marling, William H., Raymond Chandler, Boston, Twayne, 1986.Google Scholar
Moss, Robert F. (ed.), Raymond Chandler: A Literary Reference, New York, Carroll & Graf, 2003.
O’Brien, Geoffrey, Hard-Boiled America: Lurid Paperbacks and the Masters of Noir, 1st ed., 1981, rpt. New York, Da Capo Press, 1997.Google Scholar
Panek, Leroy Ladd, “Raymond Chandler (1888–1959),” in A Companion to Crime Fiction, ed. Rzepka, Charles J. and Horsley, Lee, West Sussex, England, Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, 403–14.Google Scholar
Phillips, Gene D., Creatures of Darkness: Raymond Chandler, Detective Fiction, and Film Noir, Lexington, University Press of Kentucky, 2000.Google Scholar
MacShane, Frank, The Life of Raymond Chandler (New York, E. P. Dutton, 1976)Google Scholar
Tebbel, John, Between Covers: The Rise and Transformation of American Book Publishing (New York, Oxford University Press, 1987)Google Scholar
Hammett, Dashiell, Selected Letters of Dashiell Hammett: 1921–1960, ed. Richard Layman with Julie M. Rivett (Washington, D.C., Counterpoint Press, 2001)Google Scholar
Hiney, Tom, Raymond Chandler: A Biography (New York, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1997)Google Scholar
Chandler, Raymond, Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler, ed. Frank MacShane (New York, Columbia University Press, 1981)Google Scholar
McCann, Sean, Gumshoe America: Hard-Boiled Crime Fiction and the Rise and Fall of New Deal Liberalism (Durham, N.C., and London, Duke University Press, 2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dobson, Joanne, “Reclaiming Sentimental Literature,” American Literature 69.2 (1997): 263–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hard-Boiled Sentimentality: The Secret History of American Crime Stories (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), esp. pp. 80–100

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  • Raymond Chandler
  • Edited by Timothy Parrish, Florida State University
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to American Novelists
  • Online publication: 05 December 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCO9781139003780.018
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  • Raymond Chandler
  • Edited by Timothy Parrish, Florida State University
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to American Novelists
  • Online publication: 05 December 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCO9781139003780.018
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Raymond Chandler
  • Edited by Timothy Parrish, Florida State University
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to American Novelists
  • Online publication: 05 December 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCO9781139003780.018
Available formats
×