Born in Nabraska of Irish Quaker parents, educated at Dulwich College, and in the `mean streets' of Los Angeles about which he wrote, Raymond Chandler-writer, oil executive, poet, recluse, charmer, gentlman, drunk-was full of contradictions as his origins. His seven Philip Marlowe stories had sold 5 million copies by the time of his death in1059. Since the first authorised biography 20 years ago, much new material can be revealed about the man and his life. For this major new biography, Tom Hiney has had some access to unseen personal papers, as well as previously unrecorded reminiscences by those who knew him well and he vividly evokes the strange early years, brings alive the danerous glamour of the Hollywood era, and puts Chandler`s writing in the context of the crime and corruption in Prohibition LA. He gives illuminating details of friendships with Ian Fleming, Somerset Maugham, the Spenders, Alfred Hitchcock and fully records for the first time his relationship with Cissy, his wife of 30 years, 17 years his senior, and his paradoxical relations with other women.
Hiney, a journalist for the Spectator and the London Observer, offers a prismatic view into the life of novelist Raymond Thornton Chandler (1888-1959). In addition to using previously published material by and about Chandler from both familiar and little-known sources, Hiney peered into university archives for a close inspection of Chandler's correspondence and notebooks. Hiney traces the writer's nomadic childhood from pre-Mafia Chicago to pre-telephone Nebraska, from Quaker Ireland and Edwardian England to his education south of London at Dulwich College and his 1913 arrival in the "mean streets" of Los Angeles, the later setting for his crime fiction. As recluse, oil executive, poet, screenwriter and gentlemen charmer, Chandler was "beyond eccentric" to those who came in contact with him. Living at over 100 addresses, he sustained no long friendships, and was "variously rich, poor, drunk, teetotal, sacked, married and suicidal." Not until age 50 did he move from pulps to Alfred Knopf, where the 1939 debut of streetwise Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep attracted some notice in the press. Hiney contrasts critical dismissals with later acclaim, noting that the current popularity of "Chandleresque writers" (James Ellroy, Elmore Leonard) and filmmakers (Quentin Tarantino) has triggered a reappraisal of hardboiled roots. No rough edges have been filed off for this revealing, well-written biography, and Hiney's fast-paced prose, punctuated with the voices of those who knew him well, often evoke edgy atmospherics and dark moods reminiscent of Chandler's own fiction. FYI: In April, University of California will release Raymond Chandler Speaking, a collection of the writer's letters, articles and notes on publishing, cats, crime and more edited by Dorothy Gardiner and Kathrine Sorley Walker ( paper, 275p )