CHANDLER, Raymond Thornton




Author Tags: Famous Visitor

Mystery novelist Raymond Thornton Chandler was raised in England, where he became a naturalized British citizen, but he was born in Chicago on July 23, 1888. When the United States joined the First World War effort, he enlisted in the Canadian forces and underwent basic training in Victoria with the Gordon Highlanders prior to being sent to France via Halifax. Some thirty years later, Chandler recalled his three-month stint in Victoria in a letter to a friend: "If I called Victoria dull [in a preceding letter], it was in my time dullish as an English town would be on a Sunday, everything shut up, churchy atmosphere and so on. I did not mean to call the people dull. Knew some very nice ones."

Chandler was discharged from the Royal Airforce on February 20, 1919 in Vancouver. Widely known for his first novel, The Big Sleep (1939), Farewell, My Lovely (1940) and The Long Goodbye (1954), all of which were made into films, he took the suggestion of James Bond author Ian Fleming and traveled to Capri in 1958 to interview deported mafioso 'Lucky' Luciano for the London Sunday Times. His interview was never published. Chandler became president of the Mystery Writers of America and died of pneumonia brought on by an unusually heavy drinking binge on March 23, 1959.

Raymond Chandler’s final novel Playback (1958), was set mostly in Esmerelda, California featuring Philip Marlowe, but his screenplay of the same name was mostly set in Vancouver. Published in New York by Mysterious Press as Raymond Chandler’s Unknown Thriller (1985), the revised screenplay/story opens with a beautiful blonde, Betty Mayfield, crossing the border on a train, having narrowly escaped being imprisoned for a murder she did not commit. In Vancouver she again becomes the prime suspect in a murder investigation. She writes a suicide note in the Hudson Bay Department Store but she's dissuaded from killing herself by Brandon, a debonair millionaire who promises to help her by whisking her over to Victoria in his yacht. The Vancouver Police Department’s Detective Killaine cleverly determines the murderer is Brandon, who is planning to kill Betty on his yacht. He rescues Betty with a helicopter. Raymond Chandler was unusually well paid to write the script and took particular care to revise it. Although it contains excellent sardonic dialogue and it carefully recognizes the cultural differences between Canada and the United States, Chandler had difficulty transcribing the story into a novel. It lacks a cryptic first person narrator like his famous 'hardboiled' private detective Philip Marlowe.

SELECTED BOOKS:

Playback (Houghton Mifflin, 1958)

Raymond Chandler's Unknown Thriller (Mysterious Press, 1985)

[BCBW 2003] "Famous Visitor"