Raymond Chandler


“Chandler wrote as if pain hurt and life mattered.”
The New Yorker on The Long Goodbye

“I have romantic notions of drinking gimlets with Raymond Chandler, waiting out the Santa Ana winds together in some dim bar.”
Megan Abbott, July 24, 2016, The New York Times Book Review

Raymond Chandler was one of the foremost authors (not merely one of the foremost mystery authors) of the 20th century.

Without him, what we know today as the hard-boiled crime tale might be quite different–probably less literary in aim, if not always in execution. Chandler took the raw, realistic intrigue style that Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, and others had begun cooking up in post-World War I America, and gave it an artistic bent, filling his fiction with evocative metaphors and sentences that refuse to shed their cleverness with age (“It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window”; “She sat in front of her princess dresser trying to paint the suitcases out from under her eyes.”).

Like Ernest Hemingway, Chandler had an idiosyncratic prose “voice” that is often imitated but rarely duplicated. “He wrote like a slumming angel and invested the sun-blinded streets of Los Angeles with a wonderful gusto and imaginative flair,” opined Ross Macdonald, who was among those influenced by Chandler’s work, and who would go on–in novels such as The Chill (1964) and The Underground Man (1971)–to further elevate crime fiction’s reputation.

Although he was born in Chicago on July 23, 1888, Raymond Thornton Chandler moved with his divorced mother, Florence, to England in 1895. After attending preparatory school in London, he studied international law in France and Germany before returning to Britain and embarking on a literary career that produced, early on, mostly book reviews and bad poetry. However, he did manage to publish 27 of his poems, as well as a short story called The Rose-Leaf Romance,” before returning to the States in 1912.

He then labored at a variety of jobs (including as a tennis-racket stringer and as a bookkeeper for a creamery in Los Angeles) until 1917, when he enlisted as a private in the Canadian Army and was sent to the French front lines during World War I.

Discharged at Vancouver, Canada, in 1919, he moved back to L.A., and in 1924, wed Pearl Eugenie “Cissy” Pascal. Already twice married and divorced, she was also 18 years older than the future novelist, yet “was a lively, original, intelligent, mature, youthful-looking woman who seemed precisely right for a man of Chandler’s age and experience …,” according to biographer Jerry Speir. By this time, Chandler was on the payroll of a Southern California oil syndicate, just as the oil industry around L.A. was starting to, well, gush. He originally signed on with that syndicate as a bookkeeper, but–despite his distaste for an industry he believed was dominated by corrupt opportunists–eventually rose to the position of vice president.

However, as business pressures intensified during the Depression, and Cissy’s health began to fail with age, Chandler commenced drinking heavily and engaging in affairs with office secretaries. In 1932, he was fired from his job with the oil syndicate. To ease the consequent drain on his savings, he turned back to writing, and in 1933 saw his first short story published in Black Mask, the most noteworthy of America’s cheap, mass-market “pulp magazines.” Speir explains:

It was an 18,000-word story called “Blackmailers Don’t Shoot” and caused the editorial staff to wonder if this unknown man were a genius or crazy. The story was so well polished that not a phrase could be cut, thus the praise for his “genius.” But in his compulsive drive for perfection, [Chandler] had also tried to “justify” the right margin, as printers say. He had tried to make the typed page appear with even margins on both the left and right, like a printed page–thus the concern for his possible “craziness.”

Chandler relished mystery writing because it seemed to lack pretension, and the pulps’ restrictions on word length and subject matter compelled him to master the art of storytelling. Never a past master of plotting, Chandler found his own strengths instead in creating emotion through description and dialogue, and in presenting a prose idiom that melded the precision of his prep-school English with the vigor of American vernacular speech.

His first novel, The Big Sleep (which he wrote in three months), hit bookstores in 1939 and introduced the character who would come to be synonymous with, and long outlive, his creator: wisecracking, chess-playing, late-30s L.A. private eye Philip Marlowe. Marlowe embodied the author’s conception (spelled out in his classic 1944 essay, “The Simple Art of Murder”) of the gumshoe as “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–by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and good enough for any world. I do not care much about his private life; he is neither a eunuch nor a satyr; I think he might seduce a duchess and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin; if he is a man of honor in one thing, he is that in all things.”

Chandler hadn’t intended to write mysteries for the rest of his life, but that’s exactly what he did. Thank goodness. After The Big Sleep, he penned six more Marlowe adventures, including what are arguably two undeniable classics: Farewell, My Lovely (1940) and The Long Goodbye (1953). He also took a turn in the early ’40s as a Hollywood scriptwriter, adapting James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity (1943) and writing the original screenplay for The Blue Dahlia (1946). Both garnered Oscar nominations for Chandler, and both (and Double Indemnity in particular) are well worth watching.

In 1954, just a year after The Long Goodbye was published, Cissy died from fibrosis of the lungs, sending her then 66-year-old husband into a “long nightmare” of mourning that left him with severe depression and resulted in at least one suicide attempt. Biographers like Frank McShane (The Life of Raymond Chandler, 1976) have remarked on the mixture in Chandler’s stories of toughness and sentimentality, and how “the emotional sensitivity that made [Chandler’s] literary achievement possible also made him miserable as a human being.”

That miserableness was much in evidence during the last five years of Chandler’s life. He survived it, in part, through the ministrations of Helga Greene, his London literary agent and friend (and, in the months prior to his death, his fiancée), and went on to compose Playback, which was based on a screenplay he’d written in 1947. That novel reached bookstore shelves just 16 months before he passed away, on March 26, 1959.

When Raymond Chandler died, he left behind an unfinished manuscript titled The Poodle Springs Story, which Robert B. Parker (a novelist who shows distinctive Chandlerian influences in his own novels, featuring a Boston P.I. named Spenser) would complete and see published, as simply Poodle Springs, in 1989.

The author left in his wake, too, a stylistic legacy that has inspired successive generations of detective novelists; without Chandler (along with Hammett and Macdonald) having shown them the way, people such as Parker, Michael Connelly, Timothy Harris, Arthur Lyons, Max Allan Collins, Robert Crais, Walter Mosley, Sara Paretsky, Paco Ignacio Taibo II and Loren D. Estleman might never have found their way into writing crime fiction. The success of movies made from Chandler’s stories (especially Humphrey Bogart’s 1946 The Big Sleep and James Garner’s Marlowe, a 1969 flick based on The Little Sister), as well as radio shows, TV series, and even comic books based on his work makes us forget that he only ever published seven novels and 24 short stories during his lifetime.

The impact of his legacy has far exceeded the limits of his artistic fabrication. He gave the world an indelible image of mid-20th-century Los Angeles as a city where lawlessness and luxury were old drinking buddies, and trust was a rare commodity–a rather different place from what Chandler himself had encountered during his first, pre-World War I foray to Southern California. (In The Little Sister, he has Marlowe say, “I used to like this town. A long time ago. … [It] was just a big dry sunny place with ugly homes and no style, but goodhearted and peaceful.”) This author also bequeathed us an archetype of the fictional private eye as a tired latter-day knight who, though he has traded his helmet for a fedora, still knows how to rescue a damsel in distress. That archetype has been altered in the decades since Chandler’s demise, but its shadow can still be seen behind many of the crime-novel protagonists working today.

As McShane put it in his introduction to the wonderful 1988 anthology, Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe: A Centennial Celebration, “Chandler was a real artist. He created a character who has become a part of American folk mythology, and in writing about Los Angeles, he depicted a world of great beauty and seamy corruption–the American reality. He made words dance, and readers continue to respond to his magic.”

So, let us raise a glass to Raymond Chandler: an unusual man, but one of the best writers in his own world and good enough for any world.

Respectfully submitted by J. Kingston Pierce. An earlier version of this piece appeared on his blog, Limbo.


  • “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.”
    the opening to “Red Wind”


  • “Chandler did not write “funny” in a Donald Westlake-goofy humorous way. But, for me, (his work) consists of one drawing-room comedy scene after another. In The Long Goodbye, not his larkiest book by a long shot, Marlowe comes upon a thug who has just been worked over by a sadistic cop by the name of (I think but am too lazy to look up) McGoon. The thug says, “That McGoon thinks he’s tough.” Marlowe looks at the guy’s bloody and mangled body and says, “You mean he’s not sure?” In The Little Sister, Marlowe finds himself sharing a patio with the head of a movie studio whose only joy in life is watching his dogs urinate in order of their age. Marlowe’s first novel finds him engaged in fast-paced patter with a wealthy and spoiled young woman that ends with the detective telling the family butler, “You ought to wean her. She looks old enough.” In his last, Playback, there are numerous little sequences that yield witty and nasty and, yes, bitter quips. In effect Chandler’s novels seem to me to be the hard-boiled equivalent to Noel Coward’s theater comedies.”
    — Dick Lochte
  • “Because it all starts with Hammett, Hemingway, and this guy.”
    — Peter Blauner, on naming The Big Sleep one of his Top Ten Books
  • “In the old days, I could read anything.  But now I cannot read detective stories any more unless they are written by Raymond Chandler.”
    — Ernest Hemingway, The New York Herald Tribune Book Review (1950)
  • “My favourite Chandler quote, or one of them, was about how he didn’t write whodunnits, he wrote ‘who care whodunnits” — meaning it was about the characters and the journey, to him.”
    — Ed Brubaker, The Secret Ingredient is Crime
  • “… some excellent craftsmen — painters, poets, writers, photographers, filmmakers — never find a truly singular voice or show much evidence of a distinctive style. Raymond Chandler had both, and it’s not necessary to read more than a paragraph in one of his novels to recognize it.”
    — Richard Russo, The Destiny Thief (2018)
  • “As a teenager I’d read all of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe stories… and they knocked my socks off. He wrote about Los Angeles and its neon-lit boulevards, its sour, gritty downtown and gun-toting cops (a novelty to this young European) and made them exotic. But what really got under my skin was Marlowe’s voice guiding me around the next street corner, and beyond it into a stale apartment block or a down and low bar. He invited me to look over his shoulder, let me see the highs and the lows, talked me through it and then put me in the seat beside him to drive me home. It was heady stuff, up to the point where the story began to seem incidental to the city, its moods and characters and speech patterns. What really mattered was a time, a place and the people you might run into there. I’d discovered a new kind of mystery writing and got hooked. I wasn’t the only one. Pretty soon it just wasn’t possible to take the Chandler out of anyone’s idea of LA. By now you might have the same thought about Leon and Venice, Lehane and Boston, or Block and New York. And when that happens, you know they’re getting under your skin too.”
    — Janet Roger, author of Shamus Dust
  • “Dashiell Hammett may have shown how mean those streets could be, but Raymond Chandler imagined a man who could go down those streets who was not himself mean.”
    — Kevin Burton Smith



Chandler would often cannabilize earlier short stories for his Philip Marlowe novels, although most of his short stories originally featured protagonists other than Marlowe. They all became Marlowe stories (or, in a few cases, John Dalmas stories) when they were reprinted, notably in The Simple Art of Murder (1950) collection. In all cases, the original detective is shown in this list.
The first Marlowe novel, The Big Sleep, uses “The Curtain” and “Killer in the Rain.” Farewell, My Lovely uses “The Man Who Liked Dogs,” “Try the Girl,” and “Mandarin’s Jade.” The Lady in the Lake uses “Bay City Blues,” “The Lady in the Lake” and “No Crime in the Mountains.” Chandler didn’t allow these stories to be collected and printed in his lifetime, but they were posthumously collected in Killer in the Rain (1964).

  • “Blackmailers Don’t Shoot” (December 1933, Black Mask; Mallory)
  • “Smart-Aleck Kill” (July 1934, Black Mask; Mallory)
  • “Finger Man” (October 1934, Black Mask; Carmady)
  • “Killer in the Rain” (January 1935, Black Mask; Carmady)
  • “Nevada Gas” (June 1935, Black Mask)
  • “Spanish Blood” (November 1935, Black Mask)
  • “Guns at Cyrano’s” (January 1936, Black Mask; Ted Malvern)
  • “The Man Who Liked Dogs” (March 1936, Black Mask; Carmady)
  • “Noon Street Nemesis” (May 30, 1936, Detective Fiction Weekly; aka “Pick-up on Noon Street”)
  • “Goldfish” (June 1936, Black Mask; Carmady)
  • “The Curtain” (September 1936, Black Mask; Carmady)
  • “Try the Girl” (January 1937, Black Mask; Carmady)
  • “Mandarin’s Jade” (November 1937, Dime Detective; John Dalmas)
  • “Red Wind” (January 1938, Dime Detective; John Dalmas)
  • “The King in Yellow” (March 1938, Dime Detective)
  • “Bay City Blues” (June 1938; Dime Detective; John Dalmas)
  • “The Lady in the Lake” (January 1939, Dime Detective; John Dalmas)
  • “Pearls Are a Nuisance” (April 1939, Dime Detective)
  • “Trouble Is My Business” (August 1939, Dime Detective; John Dalmas)
  • “I’ll Be Waiting” (October 14, 1939, Saturday Evening Post; Tony Reseck)
  • “The Bronze Door” (November 1939, Unknown Worlds; non-crime)
  • “No Crime in the Mountains” (September 1941, Detective Story; John Evans)
  • “Professor Bingo’s Snuff” (June-August 1951, Park East Magazine; non-crime)
  • “English Summer” (1957; first printed in 1976, The Notebooks of Raymond Chandler; non-crime)
  • “Marlowe Takes on the Syndicate” (April 6-10, 1959, London Daily Mail; aka “Philip Marlowe’s Last Case” in January 1962, EQMM; aka “The Pencil” in September 1965, Argosy; as “Wrong Pidgeon” in February 1969, Manhunt; Philip Marlowe)
  • “It’s Alright — He Only Died” (October 2017-February 2018, The Strand)


  • Five Murderers (1944)
  • Five Sinister Characters (1945)
  • The Finger Man and Other Stories (1946)
  • Spanish Blood (1946)
  • Red Wind (1946)
  • The Simple Art of Murder (1950) Buy this book  | Kindle it!
  • Trouble is My Business (1953)Buy this book | Kindle it!
  • Pick-Up On Noon Street (1953) | Buy this book
  • Smart-Aleck Kill (1953)
  • Pearls are a Nuisance (1958)
  • Killer in the Rain (1964) | Buy this book
  • The Smell of Fear (1965)
  • Pickup on Noon Street (1972)
  • Collected Stories (2002)Buy this book
    1344 pages – all of his known short fiction at the time
  • The Big Sleep/Farewell, My Lovely/The High Window (2002) | Buy this book
    Everyman’s Library omnibus edition with introduction by Diane Johnson.
  • The Lady in the Lake/The Little Sister/The Long Goodbye/Playback (2002)Buy this book
    Everyman’s Library omnibus edition with introduction by Tom Hiney.
  • Raymond Chandler: Stories and Early Novels (1995)Buy this book
    Library of America edition includes The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely and The High Window, plus selected early stories.
  • Raymond Chandler: Later Novels and Other Writings (1995)Buy this book
    Second Library of America edition includes The Lady in the Lake, The Little Sister, The Long Goodbye, Playback, the Double Indemnity screenplay, plus selected essays and letters.
  • Raymond Chandler: Collected Stories (2002)Buy this book
    This Everyman’s Library Edition is a whopping 1344 pages, and includes ALL of Chandler’s short fiction.
  • Raymond Chandler: The Library of America Edition (2014)Buy this book
    Deluxe collector’s box of two previous Library of America editions.


  • “The Simple Art of Murder” (December 1944, The Atlantic Monthly)
  • “Writers in Hollywood” (November 1945, The Atlantic Monthly)
  • “Critical Notes.” (July 1947, Screen Writer)
  • “Oscar Night in Hollywood” (March 1948, The Atlantic Monthly)
  • “The Simple Art of Murder.” (April 15, 1950, Saturday Review of Literature; revised version of the December 1944 Atlantic Monthly article)
  • “Ten Per Cent of Your Life” (February 1952, Atlantic Monthly)
  • “A Couple of Writers” (1951; first published in 1984, Raymond Chandler Speaking)
  • “Ten Per Cent of Your Life” (February 1952, The Atlantic Monthly)
  • “Advice to an Employer” (Spring 2020, The Strand #61)
    Tongue-in-cheek previously unpublished piece, probably intended for Juanita Messick, his assistant in the 1950s.
  • “Advice to a Secretary” (2021, The Strand #63)
    In the same vein as “Advice to an Employer” (above), this previously unpublished piece covers everything from Chandler’s contempt for grammarians to his discomfort with the employer-employee relationship.



    (1942, RKO)
    Release date: May 29, 1942
    Based on characters created by Michael Arlen and Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
    Adapted by Lynn Root and Frank Fenton
    Directed by Irving Reis
    Starring George Sanders as GAY LAWRENCE, THE FALCON
    The first film adaptation of a Chandler novel, although the detective is Michael Arlen’s The Falcon, not Philip Marlowe.
    (1942, 20th Century Fox)
    Release date: January 22, 1943
    Based on characters created by Brett Halliday and The High Window by Raymond Chandler
    Screenplay by Clarence Upsom Young
    Directed by Herbert I. Leeds
    Produced by Sol M. Wurtzel
    Starring Lloyd Nolan as MICHAEL SHAYNE
    The second film adaptation of a Chandler novel, but once again the hero is not Marlowe. This time it’s Brett Halliday’s Michael Shayne.
  • DOUBLE INDEMNITY | Buy this video | Buy the DVD  | Buy the Blu-Ray Watch it now!
    (1944, Paramount)
    107 minutes
    Based on the novel by James M. Cain
    Screenplay by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler
    Directed by Billy Wilder
    Starring Fred MacMurray as Walter Neff
    Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson
    and Edward G. Robinson as BARTON KEYES
    Nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Chandler even makes a cameo.
    (1944, Paramount)
    86 minutes
    Based on the novel by Rachel Field
    Screenplay by Raymond Chandler and Frank Partos
    Directed by Irving Pichel
    Costumes by Edith Head
    Starring Alan Ladd, Loretta Young, Susan Hayward, Barry Sullivan
    Handsome but poor doctor falls in love with a rich, beautiful deaf patient. No wonder Chandler drank.
  • MURDER MY SWEET | Buy this video | Buy on DVD
    (UK title: Farewell, My Lovely)
    (1944, RKO)
    Based on Farewell My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
    Screenplay by John Paxton
    Directed by Edward Dmytryk
    Starring Dick Powell as PHILIP MARLOWE
    My favourite Marlowe, in my favourite Marlowe film.
    (1945, Paramount)
    82 minutes
    Based on the novel Her Heart in Her Throat by Ethel Lina White
    Screenplay by Hagar Wilde and Raymond Chandler
    Directed by Lewis Allen
    Starring Joel McCrea, Gail Russell, Herbert Marshall, Phyllis Brooks
    A governess is haunted by a ghost, or possibly her past. Pass the scotch.
  • THE BLUE DAHLIA | Buy this video | Buy the DVD
    (1946, Paramount)
    100 minutes
    Original screenplay by Raymond Chandler
    Directed by George Marshall
    Produced by John Houseman
    Starring Alan Ladd as Johnny Morrison
    Also starring Veronica Lake, William Bendix, Howard DaSylva, Tom Powers, Hugh Beaumont
    A soldier comes home from the war to discover his wife’s a tramp. She’s also dead, and he’s the prime suspect. A pretty good flick, despite numerous production snafus, studio squabbles, Chandler being crocked to the gills during most of the writing and a studio-mandated ending that makes little sense. It was a rush job; an effort to get one more film out of Ladd before he went off to war.
  • THE BIG SLEEPBuy this video | Buy this DVD
    (1946, Warner Brothers)
    Based on the novel by Raymond Chandler
    Screenplay by William Faulkner, Jules Furthman and Leigh Brackett
    Directed by Howard Hawks
    Starring Humphrey Bogart as PHILIP MARLOWE
    A great and much beloved film. But it ain’t Chandler’s Marlowe.
  • THE LADY IN THE LAKE | Buy the video | Buy the DVD
    (1947, MGM)
    Based on the novel by Raymond Chandler
    Written by Steve Fisher
    Directed by Robert Montgomery
    Starring Robert Montgomery as PHILLIP MARLOWE
    Director and star couldn’t even spell “Philip” correctly, but his idea of filming the entire thing using the subjective camera was what really sank this turkey. Not that the acting was any help. Kiss my lens, baby!
    (UK title: The High Window)
    (1947, 20th Century Fox)
    Based on The High Window by Raymond Chandler
    Screenplay by Dorothy Hannah
    Adaptation by Leonard Praskins
    Directed by John Brahm
    Starring George Montgomery as PHILIP MARLOWE
    Long considered the redheaded stepchild of Marlowe films, it’s usually dismissed as inconsequential, and certainly stills from the film, depicting George Montgomery as a Marlowe who sports a chessy mustache don’t hold much promise. But the film, only recently made widely available on DVD, while slight, is a pleasant surprise. Some very effective camera work and some great character bits go a long way to making this quickie B-flick an enjoyably satisfying piece of film.
  • STRANGERS ON A TRAIN | Buy this video | Buy the DVD
    (1951, Warner Brothers)
    100 minutes
    Based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith
    Adapted by Whitfield Cook
    Screenplay by Raymond Chandler and Czenzi Ormonde
    Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
    Produced by Alfred Hitchcock
    Starring Farley Granger, Ruth Roman, Robert Walker, Leo G. Carroll
    By most accounts, Chandler’s final screenplay for this psychological thriller was completely trashed by director/producer Hitchcock, and never used. Ormonde, though, was forced to share the credit with Chandler, due to studio politics.
  • MARLOWE | Buy this video | Buy the DVD
    (1969, Metrocolor/MGM)
    Based on The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler
    Screenplay by Stirling Silliphant
    Directed by Paul Bogart
    Starring James Garner as PHILIP MARLOWE
    This 1969 adaptation is well worth a look, even if Garner is a little stiff, caught somewhere between the hard-boiled dicks of 40s detective films and his future incarnation as easy-going Jim Rockford. Not essential, maybe, and way too groovy for its own good, but fun nonetheless.
  • THE LONG GOODBYEBuy the video | Buy the DVD
    (1973, United Artists)
    Based on the novel by Raymond Chandler
    Screenplay by Leigh Brackett
    Directed by Robert Altman
    Starring Elliot Gould as PHILIP MARLOWE
    Robert Altman’s quirky, rabble-rousing 1973 revisionist ode to Chandler and Marlowe is either a grievous insult, or a perfect update, depending on where you stand. You hate it, or you love it — that’s all there is to it. Elliot Gould stars, though Leigh (The Big Sleep) Brackett’s script is the real draw here.
    And the funny thing is that, despite the howls of the alleged “purists,” the film is probably truer to Chandler’s Marlowe than Hawks’ much more celebrated version, which swaps the essential loneliness of the character and the tragedy of crushed ideals of Chandler’s character for a Marlowe who’s more horny fratboy than doomed knight. In Altman’s vision, Marlowe is truly and undeniably part of the nastiness by the finale. No romantic clinches with the babe as the credits roll in this one.
  • FAREWELL, MY LOVELY | Buy this video | Buy this DVD
    (1975, EK Corporation/ITC)
    95 minutes
    Based on the novel by Raymond Chandler
    Screenplay by David Zelag Goodman
    Directed by Dick Richards
    Starring Robert Mitchum as PHILIP MARLOWE
    A solid flick, except that Mitchum showed up on the set about 30 or so years late. Still,  there’s something quite engaging in seeing Marlowe as a tired, aging bruiser plowing his way through a faithfully reproduced 1940s Los Angeles of mean streets and “shine bars.”
  • THE BIG SLEEP | Buy this video | Buy this DVD | Watch it now!
    (1978, Winkast)
    99 minutes
    Based on the novel by Raymond Chandler
    Screenplay by Michael Winner
    Directed by Michael Winner
    Starring Robert Mitchum as PHILIP MARLOWE
    Mitchum again, but even older and more tired, and for some reason transported to London. There’s a solid cast, and in some ways it’s more faithful to the source material than Hawks’ classic (they restore the soliloquy, for example, and Candy Clark reclaims much of the disturbing, off-kilter sexuality of Carmen’s character) but in other ways it’s completely bonkers — Marlowe is an aging ex-pat working in London? Why? it’s at best a curiosity, for die-hard fans only. It also underscores the fact they should have cast Mitchum as Marlowe thirty or so years earlier.
  • THE LITTLE SISTER | Watch it on You Tube
    (2015, Brooklyn Multimedia)
    103 minutes
    Based on the novel by Raymond Chandler
    Grafted over the PC game Private Eye (1996, Simon & Schuster Interactive and Byron Preiss Multimedia)
    Directed and scripted by Josh Buckland
    An animated gem of a bootleg, using elements of the old PC game Private Eye (which itself borrowed heavily from Chandler’s The Little Sister). Definitely worth investigating. FanFic taken to a whole new level.



    (June 11, 1945)
    Based on Farewell My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
    Starring Dick Powell as PHILIP MARLOWE
    Also starring Claire Trevor, Mike Mazursky, June Dupré
    (1947, NBC)
    13 30-minute episodes
    Adapted from short stories by Raymond Chandler
    Starring Van Hefflin as PHILIP MARLOWE
    (June 8, 1948)
    Based on characters created by Raymond Chandler
    Starring Dick Powell as PHILIP MARLOWE
    Also starring Mary Astor, Mike Mazurki, Arthur Wentworth, Lauren Tuttle
    (1948-51, CBS)
    Based on the character created by Raymond Chandler
    Starring Gerald Mohr as PHILIP MARLOWE
    (April 20, 1950)
    Based on the short story by Raymond Chandler
    Starring Ray Milland
    (1977-88, BBC4)
    Based on the novels by Raymond Chandler
    Dramatised by Bill Morrison
    Produced by John Tydeman
    Starring Ed Bishop as PHILIP MARLOWE
    (2011, BBC4)
    Eight episodes
    Each episode 60-90 minutes
    First broadcast: February 5, 2011 (BBC Radio 4)
    Based on the novels by Raymond Chandler (and Robert B. Parker, for Poodle Springs)
    Dramatised by Robin Brooks, Stephen Wyatt
    Directors: Claire Grove, Mary Peate, Sasha Yevtushenko
    Starring Toby Stephens as PHILIP MARLOWE


    (October 7, 1954)
    Aired as an episode of drama anthology Climax! (1954-58, CBS)
    Based on the novel by Raymond Chandler
    Starring Dick Powell as PHILIP MARLOWE
    (1959-60, ABC)
    26 30-minute B&W episodes
    Based on characters created by Raymond Chandler
    Starring Philip Carey as PHILIP MARLOWE
    Why an eyepatch? Why not an eyepatch? This is somebody’s Marlowe, but not Chandler’s. Or mine.
    (1984, London Weekend Television)
    5 60-minute episodes
    Based on stories by Raymond Chandler
    Starring Powers Boothe as PHILIP MARLOWE
    (1986, Canada)
    6 60-minute episodes
    Based on stories by Raymond Chandler
    Starring Powers Boothe as PHILIP MARLOWE
    (1993, Showetime)
    Aired as an episode of Showtime’s Fallen Angels.
    Based on the short story by Raymond Chandler
    Teleplay by C. Gaby Mitchell
    Directed by Tom Hanks
    Starring Bruno Kirby as TONY RESECK
    Also starring Dan Hedaya, Marg Helgenberger, Jon Polito, Dick Miller, Peter Scolari
    (1995, Showtime)
    Aired as an episode of Showtime’s Fallen Angels.
    Based on the short story by Raymond Chandler
    Starring Danny Glover as PHILIP MARLOWE
    Also starring Valeria Golino
    Glover was nominated for a 1996 Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series Emmy for his portrayal of Marlowe in this episode.
    (1998, HBO)
    Based on characters created by Raymond Chandler and the novel Poodle Springs, completed by Robert B. Parker
    Teleplay by Tom Stoppard
    Directed by Bob Rafaelson
    Starring James Caan as PHILIP MARLOWE



    (1995, Lodestone Media/ Otherworld Media
    60 minute audio cassette
    Produced by David Ossman (Firesign Theatre)
    Starring Harris Yulin and Harry Anderson


    Words by Raymond Chandler
    Music by Julian Pascal
    A comic opera in two acts, so far un-produced. Read all about it here.


You could fill a decent bookcase with works about Chandler. And I’m enough of a fan that I have to confess I own most of thes. Sad? I know…

Arranged chronologically…

  • Pollock, Wilson,
    “Man with a Toy Gun”
    May 7, 1962, New Republic.
  • Durham, Philip,
    Down These Mean Streets a Man Must Go: Raymond Chandler’s Knight | Buy this book
    Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1963.
    The first serious biography on Chandler; pivotal and essential.
  • Bruccoli, Matthew J.
    Raymond Chandler: A Check List | Buy this book
    Kent State University Press, 1968.
    This 35-page chapbook was possibly the first major bibliographical list devoted to Chandler.
  • Ruhm, Herbert,
    “Raymond Chandler: From Bloomsbury to the Jungleand Beyond”
    From Tough Guy Writers of the Thirties, edited by David Madden
    Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1968.
  • Jameson, Fredric,
    “On Raymond Chandler”
    1970, Southern Review.
  • Beekman, E. M.
    “Raymond Chandler and an American Genre”
    Winter 1973, Massachusetts Review.
  • Porter, J. C.,
    “End of the Trail: The American West of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler”
    October 1975, Western Historical Quarterly.
  • Reck, T. S.,
    “Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles”
    December 20, 1975, Nation.
  • MacShane, Frank.
    The Life of Raymond Chandler | Buy this book
    New York: Dutton, 1976.
    For years, it was the go-to biography, picking up from Durham and laying the foundation for all that followed.
  • Chandler, Raymond,
    The Notebooks of Raymond Chandler | Buy this book
    1976, Ecco
    A hodge podge of jottings from the man himself, taken from his personal journals and published posthumously. Includes early story ideas, descriptions, rejected titles, anecdotes, notes to himself and a slew of similes and “Chandlerisms” that he never got around to using, plus his short work “English Summer: A Gothic Romance,” which Chandler considered a major turning point in his writing.
  • Pendo, Stephen,
    Raymond Chandler on Screen: His Novels into Film | Buy this book
    Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow, 1976.
  • Gardiner, Dorothy and Kathrine Sorley Walker, editors.
    Raymond Chandler Speaking | Buy this book
    Houghton-Mifflin, 1977.
    A collection of Chandler’s personal correspondence, articles and other bits and pieces. Petty, nasty, cranky, cynical and at times surprisingly touching.
  • Gross, Miriam, ed.
    The World of Raymond Chandler | Buy this book
    New York: A & W, 1978.
  • Pepper, James, editor,
    Letters: Raymond Chandler and James M. Fox | Buy this book
    Neville Publishing, 1978.
    Fascinating collection of letters from 1950-56 between Chandler and fellow mystery writer Fox, creator of the Johnny & Suzy Marshall detective series. An unlikely friendship, but there ya go. They apparently met at a party at mystery collector Ned Guymon’s house, and Fox eventually dedicated his book Dark Crusade to Chandler. Fox was obviously in awe of Chandler and Chandler, of course, could always write a mean letter.
  • Zolotow, Maurice,
    “Through a Shot Glass, Darkly: How Raymond Chandler Screwed Hollywood” | Buy this book
    1978, Action Magazine.
  • Bruccoli, Matthew J.
    Raymond Chandler: A Descriptive Bibliography | Buy this book
    Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1979.
  • MacShane, Frank, editor.
    Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler | Buy this book
    Colombia University Press, 1981.
    What happens when a lonely, cranky drunk man decides to write a few letters. But this man could write a damn good letter.
  • Speir, Jerry,
    Raymond Chandler | Buy this book
    New York: Ungar, 1981.
    Part of Ungar’s “Recognitions” series.
  • Clark, Al
    Chandler in Hollywood | Buy this book | Kindle it!
    New York: Proteus, 1982.
    Revised edition, “Raymond Chandler in Hollywood,” 1996.
    I think this was my first book about Chandler, picked up in a remainder bookstore on Sherbrooke Street (on the Westmount side). Into the rabbit hole indeed…
  • Luhr, William.
    Raymond Chandler and Film | Buy this book
    Frederick Hungar, 1982.
  • Thorpe, Edward.
    Chandlertown: The Los Angeles of Philip Marlowe | Buy this book
    London: Vermilion, 1983.
    Quite similiar to the above Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles, this slender volume (just over 100 pages) is more text-oriented, and offers a lot more contextual information.
  • Newlin, Keith,
    Hardboiled Burlesque: Raymond Chandler’s Comic Style | Buy this book
    New York: Brownstone, 1984.
  • Wolfe, Peter,
    Something More Than Night: The Case of Raymond Chandler | Buy this book
    Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Press, 1985.
  • Silver, Alain and Elizabeth Ward.
    Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles | Buy this book
    Overlook Press, 1987.
    Very interesting, especially for Chandler readers (like me, once upon a time) who’ve never been to LA. It consists of over 100 photographs (taken mostly in the 1980s), and accompanied by snippets from Chandler’s novels and stories.
  • Hiney, Tom,
    Raymond Chandler: A Biography | Buy this book
    U.K.: Chatto & Windus, 1997.
    A major new biography, updating and rivalling Frank McShane’s seminal The Life of Raymond Chandler.
  • Phillips, Gene D.,
    Creatures of Darkness: Raymond Chandler, Detective Fiction, and Film Noir | Buy this book
    Kentucky, University Press of Kentucky; 2000.
    The first in-depth study of Chandler and his work in film in years. Phillips zigs and zags all over the place here, throwing in an anecdote here, a little gossip there, and another Cliff’s Notes synopsis over there, but he has some interesting ideas worth checking out. And some of those bits and pieces are just great stuff. Phillips tosses in a preface by Billy Wilder, a prologue, an introduction, and a brief biography of Chandler, but he’s at his best when he relates how Chandler’s screenplays, including Double Indemnity (directed by Billy Wilder) and Strangers on a Train (directed by Alfred Hitchcock), slammed him right up against the Hollywood elite, with whom he had a serious love/hate thing going on. And there’s some truly great behind-the-scenes stuff any movie buff would enjoy, plus a fascinating look at the unpublished Lady of the Lake screenplay, the never actually produced Playback script and an intriguing comparison of the original version of Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep and the version most of us got to see.
  • Chandler, Raymond,
    The Raymond Chandler Papers: Selected Letters & Non-fiction, 1909-1959 | Buy this book
    New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2001.
    Selected tidbits by the master, edited by Chandler biographers Frank MacShane and Tom Hiney, expanding on MacShane’s previous Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler.
  • Moss, Robert F., Raymond Chandler: A Documentary Volume | Buy this book
    Volume #253 of the Gale Group’s Dictionary of Literary Biography series, this high-priced chunk of a book will have Chandler freaks and scholars licking their lips: almost 500 pages of hard-to-find letters, reviews, articles, think pieces, essays and excerpts from  Cap Shaw, Frank Gruber, Philip Durham, John Houseman, James Sandoe, Paul Bishop and Chandler himself, among others. 
  • Olson, Brian and Bonnie,
    Tailing Philip Marlowe | Buy this book
    Burlwrite LLC, 2003.
    A handy-dandy guidebook features three single-day ours of Los Angeles, visiting over forty locations referred to by Raymond Chandler in his novels: Marlowe’s Hollywood, Marlowe’s Downtown, and Marlowe’s Drive. Includes b&w photo illustrations, color maps, local colour and more historical trivia than you can shake a gimlet at. For a new Los Angeleno like myself, or just someone contemplating killing a few days in the City of Angels, this is one righteous read.
  • Moss, Robert F., editor,
    Raymond Chandler: A Literary Reference | Buy this book
    Carroll & Graf, 2003.
    Private correspondence, previously uncollected essays (both by and about Chandler) and associated material shed greater light on his triumphs and troubles. Well illustrated, with classic book jackets and photographs.
  • Chandler, Raymond (edited by Marty Asher)
    Philip Marlowe’s Guide to Life | Buy this book
    New York: Knopf, 2005.
    What took ’em so long? This is a no-brainer — a pocket-sized collection of the wit and wisdom culled from the greatest series of private eye novels ever, offering the “rude wit,” two-fisted wisecracks and bruised romanticism Marlowe was known for. A tip of the fedora to Marty Asher for finally doing what needed to be done.
  • Freeman, Judith,
    The Long Embrace | Buy this book | Kindle it!
    Pantheon, 2007.
    It’s a shame about Ray, or at least that’s what the author of this alternately trashy and insightful biograghy struggles to imply. Freeman sniffs through the flotsam and jetsam of Chandler’s personal life and particularly his marriage to Cissy, a much older woman. Freeman pawed through his papers and letters, interviewed some of the people who actually knew them, and tracked down over thirty of the California homes and apartments the Chandlers lived in, all in an effort to figure out what made Chandler tick, but the result is inconclusive, alternately intriguing and more than a little annoying. Plus, it doesn’t change one iota of the work Chandler left behind. Or how I feel about it.
  • Athanasourelis, John Paul,
    Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe: The Hard-Boiled Detective Transformed | Buy this book | Kindle it!
    McFarland, 2011.
    Bronx English prof holds Marlowe up to the light, and suggests that his “feeling for community and willingness to compromise radically changed the genre’s vigilantism and violence,” and compares Chandler’s work to his contemporaries, and considers his impact on the genre as a whole.
  • Williams, Tom,
    A Mysterious Something in the Light: The Life of Raymond Chandler | Buy this book | Kindle it!
    Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press, 2013.
    After The Long Embrace, you’ve got to wonder at this point what’s left to find out or to insinuate — but this compelling study by rookie author Williams digs up all sorts of dirt, from child abuse to alcoholism, and tries to back it up with footnotes, interviews, quotes, letters and articles, that will have Chandler disciples fascinated — and non-fans wondering what the fuss is about. For those unfortunates, just give them a drink and hand them a copy of The Big Sleep.
  • Cooper, Kim,
    The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles | Buy the map
    Herb Lester Associates; 2014.
    Yep, an actual map, spotlighting actual locations taken from Chandler’s works (including the films) and his life, by one of the founders of the Raymond Chandler bus tour. But mostly, it’s just beautifully designed and illustrated.
  • Day, Barry, editor, and Raymond Chandler,
    The World of Raymond Chandler: In His Own Words | Buy this book | Kindle it!
    New York, NY: Knopf, 2014.
    Day cobbles together the autobiography Chandler never wrote, using excerpts from the man’s letters, essays, interviews and fiction to tell the story. A compelling fascinating look at Chandler, his life and times, and how he saw them. It’s all speculation, in a way, but it’\’s fascinating nonetheless.
  • Frederic, James,
    Raymond Chandler: The Detections of Totality | Buy this bookKindle it!
    Verso, 2016.
    In this brief volume, culled from numerous essays over the years, one of America’s leading Marxist literary critics takes on Chandler yet again, arguing that his work “reconstructs both the context in which it was written and the social world or totality it projects.” No, seriously. A sharp incisive look that — whether you agree with Frederic’s conclusions or not — is worth reading for its punchy prose style and the author’s big balls thinking.
  • Fuller, Ken,
    Raymond Chandler: The Man Behind the Mask | Buy this book Kindle it!
    2020, independently published.
    Fuller, the author of  Dashiell Hammett: Hardboiled Activist, goes for a deep dive into Chandler’s life–his needs, his desires, his politics and yes, his sexuality. Brace yourself.


  • Department of Special Collections, Research Library, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).
    Contains manuscripts, notebooks, translations, memorabilia, and Chandleriana.


Essay respectfully submitted by J. Kingston Pierce. Additional information compiled by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Ted Fitzgerald, Chris Mills, Henry Cabot Beck, Barry Ergang, Steven Ardron and Marc LaViolette for their additional help with this page.

One thought on “Raymond Chandler

  1. I am trying to find a quote from a Raymond Chandler book. In the book Philip Marlowe had gone to visit someone and a maid had answered the door. As best as I can remember Raymond Chandler wrote something along the lines of: She answered the door looking like she had surfaced from 20000 leagues under the sea with a dolphin under each arm! Would anyone remember a similar quote to this and which book it came from? Thanks, Ian

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