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Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler Frank MacShane

Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler - Frank MacShane

London: Jonathan Cape, 1981, Hardback in Dust Wrapper.
Condition: Very Good — in Very Good Dust Wrapper. Price Clipped. A little age-spotted at the top edge of the text block.

Includes: Frontispiece portrait;

From the cover: “Raymond Chandler, author of such internationally famous detective novels as The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely, was a tenacious and tremendously entertaining correspondent who admitted, In letters I sometimes seem to have been more penetrating than in any other kind of writing. Chandler’s biographer, Frank MacShane, has brought together a comprehensive selection of these varied, often sparkling, letters in a single volume.

There are letters to intimates in England describing Chandler’s half-amused, half-outraged view of Southern California. He had a classical English education and was torn between a conservative taste and disdain for rules. Above all he had no time for pretensions and his years as a highly successful Hollywood scriptwriter presented their trials. He wrote letters to magazine editors, fellow writers and several touching ones to a girl in Australia who just happened to send him a fan letter. There is a note asking his publisher to explain to the ‘purist’ who read his proofs that the ‘sort of broken-down patois which is something like the way a Swiss waiter talks’ is deliberate, adding, ‘When I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will stay split’.

Chandler reveals much about his own literary style and his uncompromising view of his contemporaries. It has been justifiably said that Chandler ‘created Los Angeles as a literary entity’. In the ‘tough guy’ school of American detective fiction, he stands apart from the rest partly because he took what he was doing so intensely seriously. Unlike his character, Philip Marlowe, Chandler was retiring — almost reclusive. The fact that he married a woman without realizing she was seventeen years older than himself is one of his more amazing feats, but he was devoted to Cissy and during all her years as an invalid would never be far from her. This made letter writing an important link with the outside world, for as he said, ‘All of my best friends I have never met’.

This volume is teeming with the kind of candour and wise-cracks Philip Marlowe might well have uttered: about the Bible (‘Believe me it is a lesson in how not to write for the movies’); about Stanley Gardner (‘Poor Ernie must have been very out of sorts when he brayed this one into the dictaphone’); of his own writing (‘It just happens, like red hair’). But there is a melancholy, an almost eerie remoteness detectable in his moments of despair, as if he were writing about someone else. Even at the height of his powers and world-wide acclaim, he was prone to depression. Yet he could still be greatly amused to hear that ‘Edith Sitwell sat up in bed (probably looking like Henry IV Part 3) and read my stuff with passion’. A complex, emotional, loquacious but diffident man, Chandler carried on the old-fashioned art of correspondence with far more delight than he ever did writing for the silver screen.”

Jacket designed by Craig Dodd. Size: 9½" x 6¼". Black boards with Silver titling to the Spine. (xx) 501 pages.
Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler Frank MacShane