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Download The Life of Raymond Chandler. epub

by Frank MacShane

Physical description; xii, 306 p., [16]p. of plates : ill., 1 facsim., ports. ; 24cm. Notes; Includes bibliographical references and index. Subjects; Chandler, Raymond 1888-1959 - Biography. Chandler, Raymond - Biography. Authors, American - 20th century - Biography. Fiction in English - American writers - Chandler, Raymond - Biographies.
Download The Life of Raymond Chandler. epub
ISBN: 0224012541
ISBN13: 978-0224012546
Category: Literature
Subcategory: Contemporary
Author: Frank MacShane
Language: English
Publisher: Jonathan Cape; First Edition, Stated, First Printing edition (1976)
Pages: 320 pages
ePUB size: 1390 kb
FB2 size: 1853 kb
Rating: 4.5
Votes: 883
Other Formats: mbr lrf mobi lrf

A great overall review of Chandler's life and work.
Dusted off my copy of this brilliantly-researched and very readable biography after re-reading “The Big Sleep”, Raymond Chandler’s 1939 debut novel published at the tender age of fifty. Today’s biographies often run to 6-800 pages or more, building on and arguing with earlier life histories, making ample use of the internet. In contrast, Frank MacShane’s artisanal 1976 bio has only 300 quite exciting pages, incl. several useful annexes.
This is an authorized biography, meaning MacShane had full access to whatever RC left behind in writing, including letters written and received. He found unique documents, such as payment accounts from long-defunct pulp magazines from the 1930s showing RC’s dismal earnings as a budding writer after his failing as an oil executive. MacShane also spoke, wrote or phoned with anyone who knew Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) personally. For new readers this biography is a goldmine, explaining RC’s early years in the US, his move to the UK at the age of twelve and his English public school upbringing; his return to the US aged 23 and the impact of 18 months service in WW I on his world view. Throughout, his biographer provides addresses where RC lived in California (usually furnished rooms). Crucially, MacShane shows convincingly how RC viewed writing as self- fulfilment and how he failed time and again to find a voice of his own, even as a top contributor to “Black Mask” and similar mass publications he calls the 1930s forerunners of TV. He finally found this voice when he moved from stories (15-18.000 words) to hardboiled crime novels starring Philip Marlowe.

MacShane’s historical portrayal of Los Angeles' murky politics, corrupt police force, criminal elements and their smelly (and racist) interaction are well summarized as a backdrop to Chandler’s novels, beginning with “The Big Sleep”. Much of the biography covers RCs novels, his sources of inspiration and writing methods and techniques, his perfectionism and interaction with publishers and fellow crime and screen writers. (E.g. RC carefully studied the works of Dashiell Hammett who also lived in LA, but they met only once.) Frank MacShane’s biography contains plenty of unique material and piercing insight and is key background to understand a shy, tormented and highly influential novelist.
fine service, decent copy of the book ordered, rcvd faster than expected, reliable, will order agn
A glance at the chapter notes of THE LIFE OF RAYMOND CHANDLER reveals that this biography's primary source is Chandler's letters. This has its advantages, since Chandler was an entertaining correspondent, making this biography fun to read. His letters, sent primarily to his associates in publishing, also show Chandler to be wryly self-deprecating, idealistic about the writer's quest, bristling and pugnacious in business, and restless.

At the same time, this reliance on Chandler's letters poses problems. MacShane, for example, gives relatively little space to THE BIG SLEEP or THE LADY IN THE LAKE, which published before Chandler's prolific letter writing went into high-gear. In contrast, he gives many pages to Chandler's time in Hollywood, for which there are abundant (and querulous) letters. Certainly, this unevenness in the record is a common problem for biographers. Even so, THE LIFE OF RAYMOND CHANDLER sometimes feels driven by the information at hand, not by the experiences that pertain to the creation of Ray's wonderful novels.

In the first nine chapters of the eleven-chapter THE LIFE, the face that Chandler presents to the world through his letters doesn't seem quite real. But in chapter ten, Chandler's wife Cissy dies at 84 and Chandler, 18 years her junior, falls apart. Then, his chronic drinking problem becomes suicidal and his arm's length relations with women--the elderly Cissy retired early to her own bedroom while Chandler wrote his letters--becomes a desperate search for another unsuitable partner. At this point, the craziness that Chandler contained as a married and friendless loner manifests. In retrospect, this reader is amazed that Chandler could achieve so much with such profound inner turmoil.

MacShane produces several excellent chapters in THE LIFE. My favorite is "Black Mask", which describes the so-called pulp writing business of the 1930s, where Chandler, in his mid-forties, got his start. MacShane observes: "There were about 300 pulp writers in New York, with another 1,000 spread around the country. Their task was to supply the nearly 200 million words that were needed to fill these magazines annually. It was an awesome industry, not unlike television today." (FYI: Today is 1976.)

MacShane also provides many interesting observations about Chandler's writing, many lifted directly from the correspondence. For example:

o Ray: "I guess maybe there are two kinds of writers; writers who write stories and writers who write writing."

o Ray: "The thing is to squeeze the last drop out of the medium you have learned to use."

o MacShane: When at last he began to write stories for the pulps and published his own novels, he pulled together the opposed aspects of his nature and created something extraordinarily vital and original. ... He knew that his writing held him together.

A solid four-star read.
I have read several biographies of Raymond Chandler. They are all excellent, but this one by
Frank MacShane is the best. The book came as described.