RARA-AVIS: More on Chandler & Browne

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 12 Feb 2002

I frankly doubt that Raymond Chandler and Howard Browne were ever big drinking buddies even though during a period they lived close to each other. I have read various Browne memoirs and at one or two conventions heard him discuss this period. Now that I think of it, we exchanged a couple of letters. I do not recall mention of any particular closeness to Chandler at any time. Browne did buy a Chandler story for Fantastic when Chandler was experimenting with fantasy. That was almost certainly through an agent.

Browne did closely copy the Chandler model for his "Halo" novels and that may have annoyed Chandler. In the introduction to INCREDIBLE INK (in my memory the most complete of his various memoirs), he recounts one time he met Chandler:

"I met Ramond Chandler at the Overseas Press Club in New York--my editor at Simon &b Schuster, Leigh (sic) Wright, had taken me there and she introduced me. He was a little tipsy (I guess he was born with a glass in his hand), and I said, 'Mr. Chandler, it's a pleasure to meet you--I've been making a living off you for years.'"

'So few have the grace to admit it,' was his reply."

That does not sound to me like they were old buddies. It would have been in the 1950s when Lee Wright was Browne's editor on both THIN AIR and THE TASTE OF ASHES. The Overseas Press Club must have been a regular stop by Chandler because others have mentioned meeting him there. A further aside, Lee Wright
(who also may have been born with a drink in her hand), figures in many such stories as she knew everyone and was at the center of many such stories. She holds a special place in my heart as one of the final acts in a long career she bought my first novel on the basis of a fragment and an outline...despite having no memory of meeting me and insisting I send it to her while jerking on my tie to punctuate her interest. But that's another story.

My guess is that Chandler was aware of the Halo novels and didn't care that much for the flattery of imitation and retained no memory of meeting Browne and hearing his acknowledgement. Whether he did or not, his irritation at imitators is understandable regardless of the quality of work.

Browne never hid his imitations. He also met Edgar Rice Burroughs and sent Burroughs his first novel WARRIOR OF THE DAWN. ERB sent him a note saying he had read WARRIOR and "regarded it as one of the best books I ever wrote."

I'll close by saying that I intend on rereading Chandler novels soon. The last time I did so, I thought highly of them but all things considered I preferred Hammett. I'll have a different goal in this rereading. While certainly Chandler's body of work is superior, I am curious if any single novel by him equals Browne's THE TASTE OF ASHES. I know this will cause teeth to grind out there but right now I consider ASHES a better novel than any individual Chandler novel.

Richard Moore

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