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Raymond Chandler
Born July 23, 1888(1888-07-23)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died March 26, 1959 (aged 70)
San Diego, California, United States
Occupation Novelist
Nationality American (1888–1907, 1956–1959)
British (1907–1956)
Writing period 1933–1959
Genres crime fiction, suspense, hardboiled

Raymond Thornton Chandler (July 23, 1888 – March 26, 1959) was an Anglo-American novelist and screenwriter who had an immense stylistic influence upon the modern private detective story, especially in the style of the writing and the attitudes now characteristic of the genre. His protagonist, Philip Marlowe, is, along with Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade, considered synonymous with "private detective."


Early life

Chandler was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1888, but moved to the United Kingdom in 1900[1] with his Irish-born mother after they were abandoned by his father, an alcoholic civil engineer who worked for an American railway company. His uncle, a successful lawyer, supported them.[2] In 1900, after attending a local school in Upper Norwood, Chandler was classically educated at Dulwich College, London (the public school that also taught P.G. Wodehouse to write prose[2] and which also taught C. S. Forester). He did not attend university, instead spending time in Paris and Munich. In 1907, he was naturalised as a British subject in order to take the Civil Service examination, which he passed with the third-highest score. He then took an Admiralty job lasting just over a year. His first poem was published during that time.[3]

Chandler disliked the servility of the civil service and resigned, to the consternation of his family, becoming a reporter for the Daily Express and the Bristol Western Gazette newspapers. He was an unsuccessful journalist, published reviews and continued writing romantic poetry. Accounting for that time he said, "Of course in those days as now there were...clever young men who made a decent living as freelances for the numerous literary weeklies..." but "...I was distinctly not a clever young man. Nor was I at all a happy young man." [4]

In 1912, he borrowed money from his uncle (who expected it repaid with interest), and returned to the US, eventually settling in Los Angeles with his mother in 1913[5]. He strung tennis rackets, picked fruit and endured a lonely time of scrimping and saving. Finally, he took a correspondence bookkeeping course, finished ahead of schedule, and found steady employment. In 1917, when the US entered World War I, he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, saw combat in the trenches in France with the Gordon Highlanders, and was undergoing flight training in the fledgling Royal Air Force (RAF) in England at war’s end.[2]

After the armistice, he returned to Los Angeles. He soon began a love affair with Cissy Pascal, a married woman eighteen years his senior.[2] Cissy divorced her husband, Julian, in 1920 in what was an amicable separation but Chandler's mother disapproved of the relationship and refused to sanction marriage. For four years Chandler had to support both his mother and Cissy. But when Florence Chandler died on 26 September 1923, Raymond was free to marry Cissy on February 6, 1924.[6][2] By 1932, during his bookkeeping career, he became a highly-paid vice-president of the Dabney Oil syndicate, but a year later, his alcoholism, absenteeism, and threatened suicide[2] contributed to his firing.

Pulp writer

To earn a living with his creative talent, he taught himself to write pulp fiction; his first story, “Blackmailers Don't Shoot”, was published in Black Mask magazine in 1933; his first novel, The Big Sleep, was published in 1939. Literary success led to work as a Hollywood screenwriter: he and Billy Wilder co-wrote Double Indemnity (1944), based upon James M. Cain's novel of the same name. His only original screenplay was The Blue Dahlia (1946). Chandler collaborated on the screenplay of Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (1951) - a story he thought implausible - based on Patricia Highsmith's novel. By then, the Chandlers had moved to La Jolla, California, an affluent coastal neighborhood of San Diego.

Later life and death

In 1954, Cissy Chandler died after a long illness, during which time Raymond Chandler wrote The Long Goodbye. His subsequent loneliness worsened his natural propensity for clinical depression, he returned to drink, never quitting it for long, and the quality and quantity of his writing suffered.[2] In 1955, he attempted suicide; literary scholars documented that suicide attempt. In The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved, Judith Freeman says it was “a cry for help”, given that he called the police beforehand, saying he planned to kill himself. Chandler’s personal and professional life were both helped and complicated by the women to whom he was attracted — notably Helga Greene (his literary agent); Jean Fracasse (his secretary); Sonia Orwell (George Orwell's widow); and Natasha Spender (Stephen Spender's wife), the latter two of whom assumed Chandler to be a repressed homosexual.[7] (Unfortunately, Judith Freeman's book perpetuates errors dating back to the Frank MacShane biography relating to the death of Florence Chandler and a number of residences.[6])

After a respite in England (Chandler regained US citizenship in 1956.[3]), he returned to La Jolla, where he died (according to the death certificate) of pneumonial peripheral vascular shock and prerenal uremia in the Scripps Memorial Hospital. Greene inherited the Chandler estate, after prevailing in a lawsuit vs. Fracasse.

Raymond Chandler is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery, San Diego, California, as per Frank MacShane's, "The Life of Raymond Chandler" Chandler wished to be cremated and placed next to Cissy in Cypress View Mausoleum, but was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, by the County of San Diego, Public Administrator's Office because he left an estate of $60,000 with no will (intestate) apparently found. The lawsuit over his estate complicated life for Helga Greene, but didn't take place until 1960.

Critical reception

Critics and writers from W. H. Auden to Evelyn Waugh to Ian Fleming, greatly admired Chandler's prose.[2] In a radio discussion with Chandler, Fleming said that the former offered “some of the finest dialogue written in any prose today.” [8] Although his swift-moving, hardboiled style was inspired mostly by Dashiell Hammett, his sharp and lyrical similes are original: "The muzzle of the Luger looked like the mouth of the Second Street tunnel"; "The minutes went by on tiptoe, with their fingers to their lips", defining private eye fiction genre, and leading to the coining of the adjective 'Chandleresque', which is subject and object of parody and pastiche. Yet, Philip Marlowe is not a stereotypical tough guy, but a complex, sometimes sentimental man of few friends, who attended university, speaks some Spanish and, at times, admires Mexicans, is a student of classical chess games and classical music. He will refuse a prospective client’s money if he is ethically unsatisfied by the job.

The high critical regard in which Chandler is generally held today is in contrast to the critical pans that stung Chandler in his lifetime. In a March 1942 letter to Mrs. Blanche Knopf, published in Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler, Chandler complained: "The thing that rather gets me down is that when I write something that is tough and fast and full of mayhem and murder, I get panned for being tough and fast and full of mayhem and murder, and then when I try to tone down a bit and develop the mental and emotional side of a situation, I get panned for leaving out what I was panned for putting in the first time."

Although his work enjoys general acclaim today, Chandler has still received criticism for certain aspects of his stories; in one interview, Washington Post reviewer Patrick Anderson described his plots as "rambling at best and incoherent at worst", and chastised his treatment of black, female and homosexual characters, calling him a "rather nasty man". Anderson did, however, acknowledge Chandler's importance as a lyrical writer, and said that, despite his flaws, "he often wrote truly beautiful scenes and descriptions".

Chandler’s short stories and novels are evocatively written, conveying the time, place and ambience of Los Angeles and environs in the 1930s and 1940s.[2] The places are real, if pseudonymous: Bay City is Santa Monica, Gray Lake is Silver Lake, and Idle Valley a synthesis of rich San Fernando Valley communities.

Raymond Chandler also was a perceptive critic of pulp fiction; his essay "The Simple Art of Murder" is the standard reference work in the field.

All but one of his novels have been cinematically adapted. Most notable was The Big Sleep (1946), by Howard Hawks, with Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe. William Faulkner was a co-writer on the screenplay. Raymond Chandler's few screen writing efforts and the cinematic adaptation of his novels proved stylistically and thematically influential upon the American film noir genre.




These are the criminal cases of Philip Marlowe, a Los Angeles private investigator. Their plots follow a pattern in which the men and women hiring him reveal themselves as corrupt, corrupting, and criminally complicit as those against whom he must protect his erstwhile employers.

Short stories

Typically, the short stories chronicle the cases of Philip Marlowe and other down-on-their-luck private detectives (e.g. John Dalmas, Steve Grayce) or good samaritans (e.g. Mr Carmady). The exceptions are the macabre "The Bronze Door," the fantastical "Professor Bingo's Snuff" and "English Summer," a Gothic romance set in the English countryside. On several occasions, Chandler borrowed (or to use his term, cannibalized) from his pulp fiction for his novels; incidents of this borrowing are noted in the list below.

Interestingly, in the old radio series The Adventures of Philip Marlowe, which included adaptations of the short stories, the Philip Marlowe name was replaced with the names of other detectives, e.g. Steve Grayce, in "The King in Yellow." In fact, such changes restored the stories to their originally published versions. It was later, when they were republished as Philip Marlowe stories, that the Philip Marlowe name was used, with the exception being "The Pencil." The first two named stories, featuring a detective named Mallory, are exceptions in a different way, in that were not turned into Marlowe cases in print.

Crime short stories[10]

  • "Blackmailers Don't Shoot" (Black Mask, December 1933; Mallory)
  • "Smart-Aleck Kill" (Black Mask, July 1934; originally Mallory, changed to John Dalmas in Simple Art of Murder)
  • "Finger Man" (Black Mask, October 1934; unnamed originally, changed to Marlowe in Simple Art of Murder)
  • "Killer in the Rain" (Black Mask, January 1935; unnamed)
  • "Nevada Gas" (Black Mask, June 1935; Johnny DeRuse)
  • "Spanish Blood" (Black Mask, November1935; Sam Delaguerra)
  • "Guns at Cyrano's" (Black Mask, January 1936; Ted Malvern originally, changed to Ted Carmody in Simple Art of Murder)
  • "The Man Who Liked Dogs" (Black Mask, March 1936; Ted Carmody; cannibalized for Farewell My Lovely)
  • "Noon Street Nemesis" (Detective Fiction Weekly, May 1936; Pete Agstich; title changed to "Pick Up on Noon Street" for publication in Simple Art of Murder)
  • "Goldfish" (Black Mask, June 1936; Ted Carmody originally, changed to Marlowe in Simple Art of Murder)
  • "The Curtain" (Black Mask, September 1936; Ted Carmody; cannibalized for The Big Sleep and the opening of The Long Goodbye)
  • "Try the Girl" (Black Mask, January 1937; Ted Carmody; cannibalized for Farewell, My Lovely)
  • "Mandarin's Jade" (Dime Detective, 1937; John Dalmas; cannibalized for Farewell, My Lovely)
  • "Red Wind" (Dime Detective, January 1938; John Dalmas originally, changed to Marlowe in Simple Art of Murder)
  • "The King in Yellow" (Dime Detective, March 1938; Steve Grayce)[11]
  • "Bay City Blues" (Dime Detective, June 1938; John Dalmas, cannibalized for The Lady in the Lake)
  • "The Lady in the Lake" (Dime Detective, January 1939; John Dalmas, cannibalized for The Lady in the Lake)
  • "Pearls Are a Nuisance" (Dime Detective, April 1939; Walter Gage)
  • "Trouble is My Business" (Dime Detective, August 1939; John Dalmas originally, changed to Marlowe in Simple Art of Murder)
  • "I'll Be Waiting" (The Saturday Evening Post, October 14, 1939; Tony Reseck)
  • "No Crime in the Mountains" (Detective Story, September 1941; John Evans, cannibalized for The Lady in the Lake)
  • "Marlowe Takes on the Syndicate" (Daily Mail, April 6-10, 1959; published posthumously; first published in the United States as "The Wrong Pigeon" in Manhunt (February 1960; also appeared as "The Pencil", Argosy, September 1965, and "Philip Marlowe's Last Case," Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, January 1962)

Non-crime/Fantasy short stories

  • "The Bronze Door" (Unknown, November 1939)
  • "Professor Bingo's Snuff" (Park East, June, July, & August 1951; also appeared in Go, June, July, & August 1951; no priority established)
  • "English Summer" (Antaeus, Autumn 1976; published posthumously)

"The Bronze Door" and "Professor Bingo's Snuff" feature unnatural deaths and investigators (Scotland Yard and California local police, respectively), but the emphasis is not on the investigation of the deaths.

Atlantic Monthly and other magazine articles

  • "The Simple Art of Murder" (Atlantic, December 1944)
  • "Writers in Hollywood" (Atlantic, November 1945)
  • "Critical Notes" (Screen, July 1947)
  • "Oscar Night in Hollywood" (Atlantic, March 1948)
  • "10 Greatest Crimes of the Century" (Cosmopolitan, October 1948)
  • "The Simple Art of Murder" (Saturday Review, April 15, 1950; this is not a reprint of the 1944 Atlantic article, but rather an assessment of his early pulp stories; this article, somewhat rewritten, served as the introduction to the collection The Simple Art of Murder.)
  • "Ten Percent of Your Life" (Atlantic, February 1952)
  • "The Detective Story as an Art Form" (The Crime Writer, Spring 1959)
  • "Farewell, My Hollywood" (Antaeus, Spring/Summer 1976)


  • 5 Murderers (Avon Book Co., 1944)
  • Five Sinister Characters (Avon Book Co., 1945)
  • Red Wind (World Publishing Company, 1946)
  • Spanish Blood (World Publishing Company, 1946)
  • The Finger Man (Avon Book Co., 1947)
  • The Simple Art of Murder (Houghton Mifflin, 1950; contains all of Chandler's crime stories that were not cannibalized for his novels except for "Blackmailers Don't Shoot.")
  • Killer in the Rain (Hamish Hamilton (UK), 1964; contains all of Chandler's crime stories that were cannibalized for his novels.)
  • Stories & Early Novels: Pulp Stories, The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely, The High Window (Frank MacShane, ed.) (Library of America, 1995) ISBN 978-1-88301107-9.
  • Later Novels & Other Writings: The Lady in the Lake, The Little Sister, The Long Goodbye, Playback, Double Indemnity, Selected Essays & Letters (Frank MacShane, ed.) (Library of America, 1995) ISBN 978-1-88301108-6.
  • Collected Stories (Everyman's Library, Knopf, 2002; the first single volume collection of all of Chandler's short stories).



  1. ^ 1900 U.S. Census, Plattsmouth, NB
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Iyer, Pico (December 6, 2007). "The Knight of Sunset Boulevard". The New York Review of Books: pp. 31–33.  
  3. ^ a b [1]
  4. ^ Raymond Chandler: Raymond Chandler Speaking (Dorothy Gardiner and Kathrine Sorley Wakker, ed.) p.24 (Houghton Mifflin Company (1962) ISBN 978-0520208353.
  5. ^ Florence arrives 12/1912 - Passenger Manifest S.S. Merion
  6. ^ a b Raymond Chandler's Shamus Town Timeline and Residences pages using official government sources (death certificate, census, military & civil - city & phone directories)
  7. ^ http://www.nysun.com/arts/man-who-gave-us-marlowe/65983/
  8. ^ Chandler/Fleming discussion, BBC Home Service, 10th July 1958
  9. ^ a b c Philip Durham, Introduction, Killer in the Rain, Ballantine Books, 1964
  10. ^ Bruccoli, Matthew J., Raymond Chandler: A Descriptive Bibliography, Pittsburgh Series in Bibliography, University of Pittsburgh, 1979 and a private collection.
  11. ^ Not to be confused with the 1895 short story collection The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers

Further reading

  • Dorothy Gardiner and Katherine Sorley Walker (eds.; 1962), Raymond Chandler Speaking. Boston: Houghton Miflin.
  • Bruccoli, Matthew J. (ed.; 1973). Chandler Before Marlowe: Raymond Chandler's Early Prose and Poetry, 1908-1912. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press.
  • MacShane, Frank (1976). The Life of Raymond Chandler. N.Y.: E.P. Dutton.
  • MacShane, Frank (1976). The Notebooks of Raymond Chandler & English Summer: A Gothic Romance. N.Y.: The Ecco Press.
  • Chandler, Raymond (1976). The Blue Dahlia (screenplay). Carbondale and Edwardsville, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.
  • Gross, Mirian (1977). The World of Raymond Chandler. N.Y.: A & W Publsihers.
  • MacShane, Frank (ed.) (1981). Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler. N.Y.: Columbia University Press.
  • Chandler, Raymond (1985). Raymond Chandler's Unknown Thriller (unfilmed screenplay for Playback). N.Y.: The Mysterious Press.
  • Hiney, Tom (1999). Raymond Chandler. N.Y.: Grove Press. ISBN 0-80213-637-0
  • Hiney, Tom and MacShane, Frank (eds.; 2000). The Raymond Chandler Papers: Selected Letters and Nonfiction, 1909-1959. N.Y.: Atlantic Monthly Press.
  • Ward, Elizabeth and Alain Silver (1987). Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles. Woodstock, N.Y.: Overlook Press. ISBN 0-87951-351-9
  • Howe, Alexander N. "The Detective and the Analyst: Truth, Knowledge, and Psychoanalysis in the Hard-Boiled Fiction of Raymond Chandler." CLUES: A Journal of Detection 24.4 (Summer 2006): 15-29.
  • Howe, Alexander N. (2008). "It Didn't Mean Anything: A Psychoanalytic Reading of American Detective Fiction". North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 0786434546
  • Moss, Robert (2002) "Raymond Chandler A Literary Reference" New York Carrol & Graf
  • Freeman, Judith (2007). The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved. N.Y.:Pantheon. ISBN 978-0-375-42351-2 (0-375-42351-6)

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Raymond Thornton Chandler (July 23, 1888March 26, 1959) was an author of crime stories and novels.



  • There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.
    • "Red Wind" (short story, 1938), published in Trouble Is My Business (1939)
  • He snorted and hit me in the solar plexus.
    I bent over and took hold of the room with both hands and spun it. When I had it nicely spinning I gave it a full swing and hit myself on the back of the head with the floor.
    • "Pearls are a Nuisance" (short story, 1939)
  • The solution, once revealed, must seem to have been inevitable. At least half of all the mystery novels published violate this law.
    • "Casual Notes on the Mystery Novel" (essay, 1949), first published in Raymond Chandler Speaking (1962)
  • Love interest nearly always weakens a mystery because it introduces a type of suspense that is antagonistic to the detective's struggle to solve the problem. It stacks the cards, and in nine cases out of ten, it eliminates at least two useful suspects. The only effective love interest is that which creates a personal hazard for the detective - but which, at the same time, you instinctively feel to be a mere episode. A really good detective never gets married.
    • "Casual Notes on the Mystery Novel" (essay, 1949), first published in Raymond Chandler Speaking (1962)
  • There is something about the literary life that repels me, all this desperate building of castles on cobwebs, the long-drawn acrimonious struggle to make something important which we all know will be gone forever in a few years, the miasma of failure which is to me almost as offensive as the cheap gaudiness of popular success.
    • letter, 22 April 1949, published in Raymond Chandler Speaking (1962)
  • The private detective of fiction is a fantastic creation who acts and speaks like a real man. He can be completely realistic in every sense but one, that one sense being that in life as we know it such a man would not be a private detective.
    • letter, 19 April 1951, published in Raymond Chandler Speaking (1962)
  • The perfect detective story cannot be written. The type of mind which can evolve the perfect problem is not the type of mind that can produce the artistic job of writing.
    • "Twelve Notes on the Mystery Story", published in The Notebooks of Raymond Chandler(1976)
  • [As a screenwriter] I have a sense of exile from thought, a nostalgia of the quiet room and balanced mind. I am a writer, and there comes a time when that which I write has to belong to me, has to be written alone and in silence, with no one looking over my shoulder, no one telling me a better way to write it. It doesn't have to be great writing, it doesn't even have to be terribly good. It just has to be mine.
    • "A Qualified Farewell" (essay, early 1950's), published in The Notebooks of Raymond Chandler (1976)
  • The dilemma of the critic has always been that if he knows enough to speak with authority, he knows too much to speak with detachment.
    • "A Qualified Farewell" (essay, early 1950's), published in The Notebooks of Raymond Chandler (1976)
  • By the way, would you convey my compliments to the purist who reads your proofs and tell him or her that I write in a sort of broken-down patois which is something like the way a Swiss-waiter talks, and that when I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will remain split, and when I interrupt the velvety smoothness of my more or less literate syntax with a few sudden words of barroom vernacular, this is done with the eyes wide open and the mind relaxed and attentive. The method may not be perfect, but it is all I have.
    • In a letter to the editor of the Atlantic Monthly. Hiney, Tom; Frank MacShane (2000). The Raymond Chandler Papers: Selected Letters and Nonfiction, 1909-1959. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press. pp. p. 77. ISBN 0871137860.  

The Big Sleep (1939)

  • It was about eleven o'clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark little clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn't care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.
    • opening paragraph, chapter 1
  • The plants filled the place, a forest of them, with nasty meaty leaves and stalks like the newly washed fingers of dead men.
    • chapter 2
  • A few locks of dry white hair clung to his scalp, like wild flowers fighting for life on a bare rock.
    • chapter 2
  • "A nice state of affairs when a man has to indulge his vices by proxy."
    • chapter 2
  • The old man nodded, as if his neck was afraid of the weight of his head.
    • chapter 2
  • "I don't mind if you don't like my manners. They're pretty bad. I grieve over them during the long winter evenings. But don't waste your time trying to cross-examine me."
    • chapter 3
  • "Tsk, tsk," I said, not moving at all. "Such a lot of guns around town and so few brains. You're the second guy I've met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail."
    • chapter 14

Farewell My Lovely (1940)

  • Even on Central Avenue, not the quietest dressed street in the world, he looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food.
    • chapter 1
  • He had a battered face that looked as if it had been hit by everything but the bucket of a dragline. It was scarred, flattened, thickened, checkered, and welted. It was a face that had nothing to fear. Everything had been done to it that anybody could think of.
    • chapter 2
  • A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window.
    • chapter 13
  • We sneered at each other across the desk for a moment. He sneered better than I did.
    • chapter 20
  • “Who is this Hemingway person at all?”
    “A guy that keeps saying the same thing over and over until you begin to believe it must be good.”
    “That must take a hell of a long time,” the big man said.
    • chapter 24
  • "They say money don't stink," he said. "I sometimes wonder."
    • chapter 34
  • I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room.
    • chapter 34

The High Window (1942)

  • She had a lot of face and chin. She had pewter-colored hair set in a ruthless permanent, a hard beak, and large moist eyes with the sympathetic expression of wet stones.
    • chapter 2
  • He didn't curl his lip because it had been curled when he came in.
    • chapter 3
  • A check girl in peach-bloom Chinese pajamas came over to take my hat and disapprove of my clothes. She had eyes like strange sins.
    • chapter 17

The Lady in the Lake (1943)

  • The little blonde at the PBX cocked a shell-like ear and smiled a small fluffy smile. She looked playful and eager, but not quite sure of herself, like a new kitten in a house where they don't care much about kittens.
    • chapter 1

The Little Sister (1949)

  • I hung up.
    It was a step in the right direction, but it didn't go far enough. I ought to have locked the door and hid under the desk.
    • chapter 1

The Simple Art of Murder (1950)

short story collection, including the essay of the same name

  • Undoubtedly the stories about them [hard-boiled detectives] had a fantastic element. Such things happened, but not so rapidly, nor to so close-knit a group of people, nor within so narrow a frame of logic. This was inevitable because the demand was for constant action; if you stopped to think you were lost. When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.
    • Introduction
  • The mystery story is a kind of writing that need not dwell in the shadow of the past and owes little if any allegiance to the cult of the classics. It is a good deal more than unlikely that any writer now living will produce a better historical novel than Henry Esmond, a better tale of children than The Golden Age, a sharper social vignette than Madame Bovary, a more graceful and elegant evocation than The Spoils of Poynton, a wider and richer canvas than War and Peace or The Brothers Karamazov. But to devise a more plausible mystery than The Hound of the Baskervilles or The Purloined Letter should not be too difficult. Nowadays it would be rather more difficult not to.
    • Introduction
  • There are no 'classics' of crime and detection. Not one. Within its frame of reference, which is the only way it should be judged, a classic is a piece of writing which exhausts the possibilities of its form and can never be surpassed. No story or novel of mystery has done that yet. Few have come close. Which is one of the principal reasons why otherwise reasonable people continue to assault the citadel.
    • Introduction
  • Nor is it any part of my thesis to maintain that it [the detective story] is a vital and significant form of art. There are no vital and significant forms of art; there is only art, and precious little of that.
    • essay, first appeared in The Atlantic Monthly (November, 1945)
  • Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness.
    • essay, first appeared in The Atlantic Monthly (November, 1945)

The Long Goodbye (1954)

  • She opened her mouth like a firebucket and laughed. That terminated my interest in her. I couldn't hear the laugh but the hole in her face when she unzippered her teeth was all I needed.
  • When I got home I mixed a stiff one and stood by the open window in the living room and sipped it and listened to the groundswell of traffic on Laurel Canyon Boulevard and looked at the glare of the big angry city hanging over the shoulder of the hills through which the boulevard had been cut. Far off the banshee wail of police or fire sirens rose and fell, never for very long completely silent. Twenty four hours a day somebody is running, somebody else is trying to catch him. Out there in the night of a thousand crimes, people were dying, being maimed, cut by flying glass, crushed against steering wheels or under heavy tires. People were being beaten, robbed, strangled, raped, and murdered. People were hungry, sick; bored, desperate with loneliness or remorse or fear, angry, cruel, feverish, shaken by sobs. A city no worse than others, a city rich and vigorous and full of pride, a city lost and beaten and full of emptiness. It all depends on where you sit and what your own private score is. I didn't have one. I didn't care. I finished the drink and went to bed.

Playback (1958)

  • You can always tell a detective on TV. He never takes his hat off.
    • chapter 14


  • There are two kinds of truth: the truth that lights the way and the truth that warms the heart. The first of these is science, and the second is art. Neither is independent of the other or more important than the other... the truth of art keeps science from becoming inhuman, and the truth of science keeps art from becoming ridiculous.
    • The Notebooks of Raymond Chandler
  • Hollywood is wonderful. Anyone who doesn't like it is either crazy or sober.
    • From Hollywood Remembered: An Oral History of Its Golden Age by Paul Zollo

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