Raymond Chandler Interview

Steve Powell has an interesting post at the Venetian Vase quoting Chandler telling Ian Fleming how a gangland killing might be arranged. The interview took place in London, and Chandler refuses to be drawn on whether there is anyone in England he might like to kill. Chandler was drunk from the start, and much of the interview is indistinct, but the post pulls out one of its great moments. Link


A Gimlet for Ray and Cissy

Today, on Valentine’s Day, thanks to the efforts of Loren Latker, his wife, Dr. Annie Thiel, and lawyer Alyssa Wayne, the ashes of Raymond Chandler and his wife, Cissy, are to be reunited at the Mount Hope Cemetery in San Diego. Much as I would have liked to attend the ceremony and the celebratory dinner afterwards, the distance involved was too great, but I’ll be raising a Gimlet to them here in England. The Gimlet is one of my favourite cocktails, and after much experimentation, the following recipe seems to work out well:


Four parts gin (Chandler favoured Gordons),

One part Rose’s lime cordial,

Shaken over ice.

Served on the rocks, or ‘up’, depending on personal preference.

Raymond Chandler on BBC Radio 4

Here in the UK, BBC Radio 4 is running a season of Raymond Chandler adaptations, producing the entire canon (well, the novels anyway) as radio plays. Quite a few visitors are arriving here having searched for Chandler, so I thought I’d pull together all my Chandler links.

Raymond Chandler’s Early Life. Putting right a few longstanding errors in Chandler’s accepted biography.

Raymond Chandler on Writing. Article from The Reader magazine.

Raymond Chandler: A Matter of Disguise. Academic article on Chandler which appeared in Studies in the Novel in 1997.

Raymond Chandler at Dulwich College.

Raymond Chandler’s Advice to Writers.

Philip Marlowe on Freelancing. Pengin book covers and a great quotation.

Raymond Chandler and Google. It looks like Chandler coined the word ‘Google,’ and envisaged it as a source of information, in 1953.

Readers near to San Diego might like to know that the ashes of Raymond and Cissy Chandler are to be reunited on February 14th, 2011. If you would like to attend the ceremony and the celebratory drinks and dinner, follow the RSVP instructions on Loren Latker’s website.

Ray and Cissy Chandler to be Reunited

A note to say that Loren Latker’s campaign to have the ashes of Cissy Chandler moved from a storage facility to the grave of her husband, crime writer Raymond Chandler, has been successful. The San Diego court granted the petition yesterday. Thanks to anyone who signed the petition which headed this blog over the summer. More at The Venetian Vase.

Digitisation, Copyright, and the British PhD Thesis

In the autumn of 1997 I submitted a PhD thesis, with the snappy title Modernity and Identity in the Detective Novels of Raymond Chandler, for assessment at Newcastle University. Some time later, after it had been examined, copies were deposited in the university library in Newcastle, and at the British Library. In the days of paper and hard covers nobody gave a second thought to handing them over. Now though there is a plan to digitise and make available online every British PhD thesis written since the 1600s. I am happy to be included in the scheme, but I have misgivings.

The vast majority of PhDs–mine included no doubt–lie unopened and unread in one of the British Library’s vast warehouses. In truth, few are worth reading in their raw form, though many are later rewritten as books. PhD theses are pedantic and technical, written for the examiners to prove the writer’s ability to corral a set of knowledge and sustain an argument. Books are written for their audience, whoever that may be, but PhD theses are no fun at all. They are written to meet a set of academic requirements, not for wide public consumption or the all-seeing eyes of Google and Bing.

It is natural to be a little bit afraid of having such a stunted, constrained, and raw piece of work on display, but the real issue here is one of choice. What I find irksome is the assumption that everyone will be happy to have work published online even though it was never intended for publication. This is work some writers may no longer endorse, or feel comfortable about. There is a way to opt out, but it depends on authors knowing they are involved in the first place, and university libraries do not seem to feel obliged to tell them. There is also the question of whether the choice needs to be a binary one. Why have PhD authors not been given the chance to license their work, allowing different levels of freedom to share and copy, rather than just the option to remove their work from the digitisation scheme?

The current copyright system clearly doesn’t work well with this new environment in which vast quantities of data are being made public, and the Library’s attempts to reassure with talk of copyright agreements, and tracking the recipients of downloads, miss the point entirely. Since most authors have not granted permission for this kind of distribution it is possible that the participating libraries themselves are the primary copyright abusers, but in any case, hard-line copyright statements are not really in the spirit of open access.

The expectation of wide availability will change the nature of the PhD thesis, and that is probably a good thing. In an open access environment there needs to be a reconsideration of who this work is for. But before that can happen we need to find a more sensible way of licensing this material, perhaps using Creative Commons licenses on all new PhDs as a matter of course. Trying to ignore the issue (and the rights holders), and hoping for the best, as the British Library seems to be doing, is not good enough. Like most people in this situation I don’t mind my thesis being part of the process, and I will be glad to get hold of an electronic copy when it becomes freely available. Even so, it would have been nice to be asked first.

Ray and Cissy: Petition to Reunite the Chandlers

Back in March I wrote about an effort to have the ashes of Cissy Chandler, the wife of Raymond Chandler, moved from their current resting place, on a shelf in a public mausoleum, to the grave of her husband, who adored and idolized her. Loren Latker, of the Shamus Town website, is taking a lot of trouble to bring them together as they wished and the case seems set to be heard by a judge in September in San Diego, near to La Jolla where the Chandlers lived. He has set up a petition which takes only a moment to ‘sign’ and which, if there are enough signatories, should be a huge boost to the chances of the court allowing the move. If you’re a Chandler fan and you have a few seconds spare to pay your respects to the great man, do go over and sign the petition, which you can find here.

More on the campaign to reunite the Chandlers is here.

Crossposted from The Venetian Vase.

Raymond Chandler Timeline Updated

Loren Latker, whose Shamus Town website is a great resource for anyone interested in Raymond Chandler and Los Angeles, has been doing some excellent research on Chandler’s early life and his family. His Chandler Timeline has just been updated with new material. Loren writes:

It now starts in 1858 with the birth of Morris, or Maurice, B Chandler. I’ve added many popup images for Ray’s birth certificate, his school records, a Laramie new item about an M Chandler attending a party in 1886, obits about his uncle Fitt’s brother and his aunt Francis Grace. I also found the document from 1927 where Ray started the process to regain his U.S. Citizenship. From that we learn that after WWI he returned to Canada, made is way to Victoria BC, boarded the Governor bound for San Francisco and arrived in March of 1919. He and Florence [Ray’s mother] were living at the West 12th Street address then. [Link to the Chandler Timeline]

My own take on Chandler’s early life is here.

Raymond Chandler at Dulwich College

Some time ago now I was sent a pamphlet entitled A College Boy: Raymond Chandler at Dulwich College, 1900 to 1905. The pamphlet was written by Calista Lucy, the archivist at Dulwich College, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Chandler’s death and to mark the renaming of the college’s Lower School Library the Raymond Chandler Library.

A College Boy adds quite a few new snippets of information to the early Chandler biography as well as looking at his writing from a Dulwich point of view. The college’s ledger of Entrance and Tuition Fees, for example, apparently shows that in 1900, when he enrolled at the college having just arrived in England, Chandler lived at Whitefield Lodge, 77 Alleyn Park; he and his mother are later listed in the 1901 census as living at Mount Cyra, 110 Auckland Road, Upper Norwood. As Calista Lucy points out, there is no blue plaque: there should be. There is also information about the books he borrowed from the library–Thackeray, Lamb, and Mark Twain feature–and the news that Chandler returned to Dulwich as a substitute teacher in 1910, from the start of the Michaelmas term that year through to July 1911. This was the period in which his literary ambitions were foundering through lack of money. The job apparently paid him a total of £53 6s, around a sixth of a regular Dulwich College master’s salary at the time.

Watts-galahadChandler the teacher is a tantalising prospect. He was probably a charismatic figure in the classroom, but I suspect there was a lot of ‘telling’ in his teaching style. He was helped into the teaching job by an old master of his, Henry ‘Teddy’ Hose (1876-1967), with whom he kept up a correspondence and friendship that included sending monthly food parcels in the years when food was rationed after World War II. He also did this for another ‘Old Alleynian’, McCulloch Christison.

Besides this kind of information, where the pamphlet is also interesting is in it’s highly suggestive speculations about the influence of the school on Chandler’s later life. For example it seems that in 1903 G.F. Watts’s painting of Sir Galahad (left) was hanging in the school library during Chandler’s time there. It also turns out that the cornflower is the school flower and Lucy makes a link here with the cornflower in the lapel of Lindsay Marriott in Farewell, My Lovely, and Eileen Wade’s cornflower blue eyes–‘a rare colour’–in The Long Good-Bye.

These connections might seem tenuous at face value, but Chandler stayed in contact with several people from the school and clearly saw his time there as a major influence on his later life. Lucy notes that Bill Townend, another Dulwich old boy, met Chandler in San Francisco in 1913 and found he was wearing a straw ‘boater’ with the cornflower blue Dulwich ribbon round the brim. This corroborates other evidence that Chandler’s first place of residence in California was the Bay Area, rather than the environs of Los Angeles. For example, Chandler’s mother Florence seems to be listed in a 1912 passenger manifest of the SS Merion with a final US destination of ‘Berkeley, San Francisco’.

More on the discrepancies in Chandler’s early biography here, and on Loren Latker’s Shamus Town site.

Dulwich College to Name Library in Honour of Raymond Chandler

The archivist at Dulwich College, where crime writer Raymond Chandler attended school from 1900 has been in touch to say that on May 5th 2009 the Lower School Library will be renamed the Chandler Library to mark the 50th anniversary of his death. The ceremony will be conducted by Tom Rob Smith, a more recent ‘Old Alleynian’ and author of Child 44, which was  longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2008. Dulwich already has a ‘Wodehouse Library’, in honour of the creator of ‘Jeeves and Wooster’ who preceded Chandler at the school. I wonder if the remaining Junior School library will eventually be named for C.S. Forester, author of The African Queen, who attended Dulwich College after Chandler and also lived and wrote in California.

Meanwhile, more information is emerging about Chandler’s life in the United States before he moved to England. Chandler researcher Loren Latker has uncovered evidence of Chandler attending school in Plattsmouth, Nebraska in 1895 and 1896 and this, combined with Nebraska census records showing he and his mother were resident in Plattsmouth in 1900, suggests that he did not move to the UK in 1895 as has been commonly thought. It seems more likely that he and his mother crossed the Atlantic in June 1900 so that he could begin his studies at Dulwich.

More on Chandler’s early life here [Updated]