Subject: RARA-AVIS: raymond chandler papers

From: ejmd (
Date: 16 Dec 2000

After Martha posted the url to the Mat Coward's review of The RC Papers in the Independent [isn't he a rara-avian?] I thought I'd see what the Guardian had to say about it ...

The Guardian also has a review of Hiney's biography of Chandler, as well as links to other stuff, including examples of Chandler's poetry! See the links on this page:,5917,-37,00.html


Long, frank and forlorn goodbye

Robert McCrum Sunday December 3, 2000

The Raymond Chandler Papers: Selected Letters and Non-Fiction Edited by Tom Hiney and Frank MacShane Hamish Hamilton, £20, pp266 Buy it at BOL According to Tom Hiney, who has already written a well-received biography of Raymond Chandler, his letters 'are an unusually honest and freewheeling journey into the mind of a man who had seen a lot, read a lot, drunk a lot, thought a lot and steered perilously close to insanity in the process...'

This is a useful advertisement for a volume that's basically for the fans, for whom Chandler's insomniac ramblings, dictated in the small hours to his Mexican secretary, are the essential commentary on what Chandler himself described as 'a rather forlorn sort of life'.

As Hiney freely acknowledges, there have already been two selections of Chandler papers (1962; 1981) since his death in 1959, and this one depends heavily on the work of the great Chandler scholar, the late Frank McShane.

The picture it offers is of an obsessive writer, maniacally wrestling with the demons of alcoholism and loneliness in a variety of one-horse Californian hotels, sustained by the love of his wife Cissy, a woman 10 years his senior. Along the way, we get odd insights into the making of the great novels, The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely, The Little Sister and The Long Goodbye .

Although he might have impressed himself with the coruscating frankness of his judgments, Chandler, who disdained 'the anthology racket' and critics who 'write pukey little introductions and sit back with an indulgent smile and all nine pockets open' would have had several harsh things to say about this book. It is sloppily annotated, disgracefully lacking in source material and absurdly overpriced.

Never mind. Some pages more than repay the cost of entry. 'My ideas of what constitutes good writing,' he noted in 1957, 'are increasingly rebellious.' He was inclined, he said, 'to tell all the fancy boys to go to hell, all the subtle-subtle ones... that subtlety is only a technique... The things that last,' he went on, 'come from the deeper levels of a writer's being'.

Oddly enough, this was almost exactly the opinion of his near contemporary, P.G. Wodehouse. It must have been something about Dulwich.

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