Philip Marlowe / Raymond Chandler


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chandlerRaymond Thornton Chandler (1888 – 1959) was a British/American novelist and screenwriter. In 1932, at age forty-four, Chandler decided to become a detective fiction writer after losing his job as an oil company executive during the Great Depression. His first short story, ‘Blackmailers Don’t Shoot’, was published in 1933 in Black Mask, a popular pulp magazine. His first novel, The Big Sleep, was published in 1939. In addition to his short stories, Chandler published seven novels during his lifetime (an eighth in progress at his death was completed by Robert B. Parker). All but Playback have been made into motion pictures, some several times. In the year before he died, he was elected president of the Mystery Writers of America. He died on March 26, 1959, in La Jolla, California.

Chandler had an immense stylistic influence on American popular literature, and is considered by many to be a founder, along with Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain and other Black Mask writers, of the hard-boiled school of detective fiction. His protagonist, Philip Marlowe, along with Hammett’s Sam Spade, is considered by some to be synonymous with “private detective,” both having been played on screen by Humphrey Bogart, whom many considered to be the quintessential Marlowe.

Some of Chandler’s novels are considered important literary works, and three are often considered masterpieces: Farewell, My Lovely (1940), The Little Sister (1949), and The Long Goodbye (1953). The Long Goodbye is praised within an anthology of American crime stories as “arguably the first book since Hammett’s The Glass Key, published more than twenty years earlier, to qualify as a serious and significant mainstream novel that just happened to possess elements of mystery”.

Chandler was born in 1888 in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Florence Dart (Thornton) and Maurice Benjamin Chandler. He spent his early years in Plattsmouth, Nebraska. After Chandler’s family was abandoned by his father, an alcoholic civil engineer who worked for the railway, to obtain the best possible education for Ray, his mother, originally from Ireland, moved them to the area of Upper Norwood in the London Borough of Croydon, England in 1900. Another uncle, a successful lawyer in Waterford, Ireland, supported them while they lived with his maternal grandmother. Chandler was classically educated at Dulwich College, London (a public school whose alumni include the authors P. G. Wodehouse and C. S. Forester). He spent some of his childhood summers in Waterford with his maternal family. He did not go to university, instead spending time in Paris and Munich improving his foreign language skills. In 1907, he was naturalized as a British subject in order to take the civil service examination, which he passed, and then took an Admiralty job, lasting just over a year. His first poem was published during that time.

Chandler disliked the servility of the civil service and resigned, to the consternation of his family, and became a reporter for the Daily Express and the Bristol Western Gazette newspapers. He was an unsuccessful journalist, published reviews and continued writing romantic poetry. In 1912, he borrowed money from his Waterford uncle, who expected it to be repaid with interest, and returned to America, visiting his aunt and uncle before settling in San Francisco for a time, where he took a correspondence bookkeeping course, finishing ahead of schedule, and where his mother joined him in late 1912. Eventually they moved to Los Angeles in 1913. Along the way he strung tennis rackets, picked fruit and endured a time of scrimping and saving. Once in Los Angeles he found steady employment with The Los Angeles Creamery. In 1917, when the US entered World War I, he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, saw combat in the trenches in France with the Gordon Highlanders, and was undergoing flight training in the fledgling Royal Air Force (RAF) when the war ended.

After the armistice, he returned to Los Angeles by way of Canada, and soon began a love affair with Cissy Pascal, a married woman 18 years his senior, and the step-mother of Gordon Pascal, with whom Chandler had enlisted. Cissy amicably divorced her husband Julian in 1920, but Chandler’s mother disapproved of the relationship and refused to sanction the marriage. For the next four years Chandler supported both his mother and Cissy; on Florence Chandler’s death on September 26, 1923, he was free to marry Cissy, and did so on February 6, 1924. Having begun in 1922 as a bookkeeper and auditor, Chandler was by 1931 a highly paid vice-president of the Dabney Oil Syndicate; but his alcoholism, absenteeism, promiscuity with female employees, and threatened suicides all contributed to his dismissal a year later.

Due to his straitened financial circumstances during the Great Depression, Chandler turned to his latent writing talent to earn a living, teaching himself to write pulp fiction by studying the Perry Mason story formula of Erle Stanley Gardner. Chandler’s first professional work, “Blackmailers Don’t Shoot”, was published in Black Mask magazine in 1933; his first novel, The Big Sleep, was published in 1939, featuring his famous Philip Marlowe detective character speaking in the first person.

His second Marlowe novel, Farewell, My Lovely (1940), became the basis for three movie versions adapted by other screenwriters, including 1944’s Murder My Sweet (which marked the screen debut of the Marlowe character), starring Dick Powell (whose depiction of Marlowe Chandler reportedly applauded). Literary success and film adaptations led to a demand for Chandler himself as a screenwriter. He and Billy Wilder co-wrote Double Indemnity (1944), based on James M. Cain’s novel of the same name. The noir screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award. Said Wilder: “I would just guide the structure and I would also do a lot of the dialogue, and he (Chandler) would then comprehend and start constructing too.” Wilder always acknowledged that the ramped-up dialogue which makes the film so memorable was largely Chandler’s.

Chandler’s only produced original screenplay was The Blue Dahlia (1946). Chandler had not written a denouement for the script, and according to producer John Houseman, Chandler agreed to complete the script only if drunk, which Houseman agreed to. The script gained Chandler’s second Academy Award nomination for screenplay.

Chandler collaborated on the screenplay of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Strangers on a Train’ (1951), an ironic murder story based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel of the same title, which he thought implausible. Chandler clashed with Hitchcock to such an extent that they stopped talking, especially after Hitchcock heard Chandler had referred to him as “that fat bastard”. Hitchcock reportedly made a show of throwing Chandler’s two draft screenplays into the studio trash can while holding his nose, but Chandler’s name retains the lead screenwriting credit along with Czenzi Ormonde.

In 1946 the Chandlers moved to La Jolla, California, an affluent coastal neighborhood of San Diego, where Chandler wrote the final two Philip Marlowe novels, ‘The Long Goodbye’ and his last completed work, ‘Playback’. The latter was derived from an unproduced courtroom drama screenplay he had written for Universal Studios.

In 1954, Pearl Eugenie (Cissy) Chandler died after a long illness. Heartbroken and drunk, Chandler neglected to inter Cissy’s cremated remains, and they sat for 57 years in a storage locker in the basement of Cypress View Mausoleum.

After Cissy’s death, Chandler’s loneliness worsened his propensity for clinical depression; he returned to drink, never quitting it for long, and the quality and quantity of his writing suffered. In 1955, he attempted suicide. In ‘The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved’, Judith Freeman says it was “a cry for help,” given that he called the police beforehand, saying he planned to kill himself. Chandler’s personal and professional life were both helped and complicated by the women to whom he was attracted – notably Helga Greene (his literary agent); Jean Fracasse (his secretary); Sonia Orwell (George Orwell’s widow); and Natasha Spender (Stephen Spender’s wife), the last two of whom assumed Chandler to be a repressed homosexual. Chandler regained his US citizenship in 1956.

Chandler’s final Marlowe short story, circa 1957, was entitled “The Pencil”. It later provided the basis of an episode for an HBO mini-series (1983–86) entitled Philip Marlowe, Private Eye, starring Powers Boothe as Marlowe.

After a respite in England, he returned to La Jolla. He died at Scripps Memorial Hospital of pneumonial peripheral vascular shock and prerenal uremia (according to the death certificate) in 1959. Helga Greene inherited Chandler’s $60,000 estate, after prevailing in a 1960 lawsuit filed by Fracasse contesting Chandler’s holographic codicil to his will. Raymond Chandler is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery, San Diego, California. 

Four chapters of a novel, unfinished at his death, were transformed into a final “Chandler” Philip Marlowe book, Poodle Springs, by mystery writer and Chandler admirer Robert B. Parker, author of the “Spenser” series, in 1989. Parker shares the authorship with Chandler, and subsequently wrote his own Marlowe sequel to The Big Sleep entitled Perchance to Dream, which was salted with quotes from the original novel.

In his introduction to Trouble Is My Business (1950), a collection of four of his short stories, Chandler provided insight on the formula for the detective story and how the pulp magazines differed from previous detective stories:

“The emotional basis of the standard detective story was and had always been that murder will out and justice will be done. Its technical basis was the relative insignificance of everything except the final denouement. What led up to that was more or less passage work. The denouement would justify everything. The technical basis of the Black Mask type of story on the other hand was that the scene outranked the plot, in the sense that a good plot was one which made good scenes. The ideal mystery was one you would read if the end was missing. We who tried to write it had the same point of view as the film makers. When I first went to Hollywood a very intelligent producer told me that you couldn’t make a successful motion picture from a mystery story, because the whole point was a disclosure that took a few seconds of screen time while the audience was reaching for its hat. He was wrong, but only because he was thinking of the wrong kind of mystery.”

Critics and writers, including W. H. Auden, Evelyn Waugh and Ian Fleming, greatly admired Chandler’s prose. In a radio discussion with Chandler, Fleming said that Chandler offered “some of the finest dialogue written in any prose today”. Contemporary mystery writer Paul Levine has described Chandler’s style as the “literary equivalent of a quick punch to the gut.” Although Chandler’s swift-moving, hardboiled style was inspired mostly by Dashiell Hammett, his sharp and lyrical similes are original with examples such as the following: “The muzzle of the Luger looked like the mouth of the Second Street tunnel”; “He had a heart as big as one of Mae West’s hips”; “Dead men are heavier than broken hearts”; “I went back to the seasteps and moved down them as cautiously as a cat on a wet floor.” Chandler’s writing redefined the private eye fiction genre, led to the coining of the adjective “Chandleresque,” and inevitably became the subject of parody and pastiche. Yet the detective Philip Marlowe is not a stereotypical tough guy, but a complex, sometimes sentimental man with few friends, who attended university, who speaks some Spanish and sometimes admires Mexicans, and who is a student of chess and classical music. He is a man who refuses a prospective client’s fee for a job he considers unethical.

Philip Marlowe

Philip Marlowe was Raymond Chandler’s most popular detective, appearing  in The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely and The Long Goodbye. Chandler is not consistent as to Marlowe’s age. In The Big Sleep where the story occurs in 1936, he makes him 33, while in The Long Goodbye (set fourteen years later) Marlowe is 42. In a letter to D. J. Ibberson of 19 April 1951, Chandler noted among other things that Marlowe is 38 years old and was born in Santa Rosa, California. He had a couple of years at college and some experience as an investigator for an insurance company and the district attorney’s office of Los Angeles County. He was fired from the D.A.’s office for insubordination (or as Marlowe put it, “talking back”). The D.A.’s chief investigator, Bernie Ohls, is a friend and former colleague and a source of information for Marlowe within law enforcement.

Marlowe is slightly over 6 feet tall and weighs about 190 pounds. He first lived at the Hobart Arms, on Franklin Avenue near North Kenmore Avenue (in The Big Sleep), but then moved to the Bristol Hotel, where he stayed for about ten years. By 1950 (in The Long Goodbye) he has rented a house on Yucca Avenue and continued at the same place in early 1952 (in Playback).

His office, originally on the 7th floor of an unnamed building in 1936, is at #615 on the sixth floor of the Cahuenga Building by March/April 1939 (the date of Farewell, My Lovely), which is on Hollywood Boulevard near Ivar. North Ivar Avenue is between North Cahuenga Boulevard to the west and Vine Street to the east. The office telephone number is GLenview 7537. Marlowe’s office is modest and he doesn’t have a secretary (unlike Sam Spade). He generally refuses to take divorce cases.

He smokes and prefers Camels. At home he sometimes smokes a pipe. A chess adept, he almost exclusively plays against himself, or plays games from books.

He drinks whiskey or brandy frequently and in relatively large quantities. For example, in The High Window, he gets out a bottle of Four Roses, and pours glasses for himself, for Det. Lt. Breeze and for Spangler. At other times he is drinking Old Forester, a Kentucky bourbon: “I hung up and fed myself a slug of Old Forester to brace my nerves for the interview. As I was inhaling it I heard her steps tripping along the corridor.” (The Little Sister) However, in ‘Playback’ he orders a double Gibson at a bar while tailing Betty Mayfield. Also, in ‘The Long Goodbye’, he and Terry Lennox drink Gimlets.

Marlowe is adept at using liquor to loosen peoples’ tongues. An example is in ‘The High Window’, when Marlowe finally persuades the detective-lieutenant, whose “solid old face was lined and grey with fatigue”, to take a drink and thereby loosen up and give out. “Breeze looked at me very steadily. Then he sighed. Then he picked the glass up and tasted it and sighed again and shook his head sideways with a half smile; the way a man does when you give him a drink and he needs it very badly and it is just right and the first swallow is like a peek into a cleaner, sunnier, brighter world.”

He frequently drinks coffee. Eschewing the use of filters (see Farewell My Lovely), he uses a vacuum coffee maker (see The Long Goodbye, chapter 5). He takes his coffee with cream in the mornings but has it black at other times.

Edited from Wikipedia Raymond Chandler & Philip Marlowe

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chandler collectionBest Buy!
Philip Marlowe collection
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All 7 novels & 12 novelettes


Philip Marlowe Novels


big sleep2The Big Sleep (1939)

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Best Review  1939 Review
***

Note: A complicated case!

Based on the short stories “Killer in the Rain” (1935) and “The Curtain” (1936)

When a dying millionaire hires Philip Marlowe to handle the blackmailer of one of his two troublesome daughters, Marlowe finds himself involved with more than extortion. Kidnapping, pornography, seduction, and murder are just a few of the complications he gets caught up in.

“Chandler [writes] like a slumming angel and invest[s] the sun-blinded streets of Los Angeles with a romantic presence.”
–Ross Macdonald

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farewell lovelyFarewell, My Lovely (1940)

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Best Review  1940 Review
****

Note: A dangerous situation!

Based on the short stories “The Man Who Liked Dogs” (1936), “Try The Girl” (1937) and “Mandarin’s Jade” (1937).

Philip Marlowe has been out of work for a while when he witnesses the felon Malloy loudly questioning a nightclub manager about the whereabouts of his ex-girlfriend, Velma. When Malloy shoots the manager and goes on the lam, Marlowe is pulled into a dangerous chain of events that will end only when he solves the case.

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high windowThe High Window (1942)

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Best Review
****

Note: A widow with a mean streak!

Based on the short stories “Bay City Blues” (1938) and “The Lady In The Lake” (1939)

A wealthy Pasadena widow with a mean streak, a missing daughter-in-law with a past, and a gold coin worth a small fortune – the elements don’t quite add up until Marlowe discovers evidence of murder, rape, blackmail, and the worst kind of human exploitation.

“Raymond Chandler has given us a detective who is hard-boiled enough to be convincing . . . and that is no mean achievement.” — The New York Times

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lady lakeThe Lady in the Lake (1943)

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Best Review
****

Note: Two missing wives!

Based on the short stories “Bay City Blues” (1938), “The Lady In The Lake” (1939), “No Crime In The Mountains” (1941)

A couple of missing wives – one a rich man’s and one a poor man’s – become the objects of Marlowe’s investigation. One of them may have gotten a Mexican divorce and married a gigolo and the other may be dead. Marlowe’s not sure he cares about either one, but he’s not paid to care.

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little sisterThe Little Sister (1949)

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****

Note: Marlowe goes Hollywood!

Scenes based on the short story “Bay City Blues” (1938)

A movie starlet with a gangster boyfriend and a pair of siblings with a shared secret lure Marlowe into the less than glamorous and more than a little dangerous world of Hollywood fame. Chandler’s first foray into the industry that dominates the company town that is Los Angeles.

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long goodbyeThe Long Goodbye (1953)

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Best Review
*****

Note: Chandler’s best?

1953 UK; Sept 1954 USA; Edgar Award for Best Novel, 1955). Scenes based on the short story “The Curtain” (1936).

Marlowe befriends a down on his luck war veteran with the scars to prove it. Then he finds out that Terry Lennox has a very wealthy nymphomaniac wife, who he’s divorced and re-married and who ends up dead – and now Lennox is on the lam and the cops and a crazy gangster are after Marlowe.

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playback RCPlayback (1958)

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Best Review
****

Note: A deadly reread?

Based on an unproduced screenplay.

Marlowe is hired by an influential lawyer he’s never herd of to tail a gorgeous redhead, but decides he prefers to help out the redhead. She’s been acquitted of her alcoholic husband’s murder, but her father-in-law prefers not to take the court’s word for it.

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poodle springsPoodle Springs (1959 / 1989)
Completed by Robert B. Parker

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Best Review
****

Note: Left incomplete; completed by Robert B. Parker in 1989 

Philip Marlowe is alive and well and living in Poodle Springs, California. He’s married to a wealthy heiress now. But living in the lap of luxury hasn’t made a dent in Marlowe’s cynicism – or his talent for attracting trouble. Soon he’s on a trail of greed, lust, and murder as dark and cunning as any he’s ever seen. Philip Marlowe is back in business.

Perchance to Dream (1991) by Robert B. Parker, was an authorized sequel to Chandler’s The Big Sleep. New York Times Review   Book 

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Philip Marlowe Short Stories


Note: Most of Chandler’s short stories originally featured early prototypes of Marlowe, including Mallory, Ted Carmady, or John Dalmas, when they had any name. When they were later collected and reprinted, the names were generally changed to Marlowe. Only the last story, “Marlowe Takes on the Syndicate” (AKA”Wrong Pidgeon” or “The Pencil”), was actually written as a Marlowe story.


complete storiesBlackmailers Don’t Shoot
Collection: Raymond Chandler Collected Stories

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Note: Black Mask, December 1933; Mallory

The only complete collection! 

Includes:

Blackmailers Don’t Kill
Smart Aleck Kill
Finger Man
Killer in The Rain
Nevada Gas
Spanish Blood
Guns at Cyrano’s
The Man Who Liked Dogs
Pick-Up at Noon Street
Goldfish
The Curtain
Try The Girl
Mandarin’s Jade
Red Wind
The King in Yellow
Bay City Blues
The Lady in The Lake
Pearl’s are a Nuisance
Trouble is My Business
I’ll be Waiting
The Bronze Door
No Crime in The Mountains
Professor Bingo’s Snuff
The Pencil
English Summer


chandler collectionSmart-Aleck Kill 
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Note: Black Mask, July 1934; originally Mallory, changed to John Dalmas in Simple Art of Murder


complete storiesFinger Man 
Collection: Raymond Chandler Collected Stories

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Note: Black Mask, October 1934; unnamed originally, but several characters from the Ted Carmady stories appear; changed to Marlowe in Simple Art of Murder


complete storiesKiller in the Rain 
Collection: Raymond Chandler Collected Stories

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Note: Black Mask, January 1935; unnamed, but several characters from the John Dalmas stories appear; cannibalized for The Big Sleep


chandler collectionNevada Gas
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Note: Black Mask, June 1935; Johnny DeRuse


chandler collectionSpanish Blood
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Note: Black Mask, November 1935; Sam Delaguerra


chandler collectionGuns at Cyrano’s
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Note: Black Mask, January 1936; Ted Malvern originally, changed to Ted Carmady in Simple Art of Murder


chandler collectionThe Man Who Liked Dogs
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Note: Black Mask, March 1936; Ted Carmady; cannibalized for Farewell My Lovely


chandler collectionNoon Street Nemesis 
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Note: Detective Fiction Weekly, May 1936; Pete Anglich; title changed to “Pick Up on Noon Street” for publication in Simple Art of Murder


complete storiesGoldfish 
Collection: Raymond Chandler Collected Stories

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Note: Black Mask, June 1936; Ted Carmady originally, changed to Marlowe in Simple Art of Murder


chandler collectionThe Curtain
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Note: Black Mask, September 1936; Ted Carmady; cannibalized for The Big Sleep and the opening of The Long Goodbye


chandler collectionTry the Girl
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Note: Black Mask, January 1937; Ted Carmady; cannibalized for Farewell, My Lovely


complete storiesMandarin’s Jade 
Collection: Raymond Chandler Collected Stories

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Note: Dime Detective, 1937; John Dalmas; cannibalized for Farewell, My Lovely


complete storiesRed Wind
Collection: Raymond Chandler Collected Stories

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Note: Dime Detective, January 1938; John Dalmas originally, changed to Marlowe in Simple Art of Murder


chandler collectionThe King in Yellow
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Note: Dime Detective, March 1938; Steve Grayce


complete storiesBay City Blues 
Collection: Raymond Chandler Collected Stories

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Note: Dime Detective, June 1938; John Dalmas, cannibalized for The Lady in the Lake, The High Window, and The Little Sister


complete storiesThe Lady in the Lake 
Collection: Raymond Chandler Collected Stories

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Note: Dime Detective, January 1939; John Dalmas, cannibalized for The Lady in the Lake and The High Window


chandler collectionPearls Are a Nuisance 
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Note: Dime Detective, April 1939; Walter Gage


chandler collectionTrouble is My Business
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Note: Dime Detective, August 1939; John Dalmas originally, changed to Marlowe in Simple Art of Murder


chandler collectionI’ll Be Waiting
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Note: The Saturday Evening Post, October 14, 1939; Tony Reseck


complete storiesNo Crime in the Mountains 
Collection: Raymond Chandler Collected Stories

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Note: Detective Story, September 1941; John Evans, cannibalized for The Lady in the Lake


complete storiesMarlowe Takes on the Syndicate AKA: The Pencil
Collection: Raymond Chandler Collected Stories

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Note: London Daily Mail, April 6–10, 1959; published posthumously; first published in the United States as “The Wrong Pigeon” in Manhunt (February 1960; also appeared as “The Pencil”, Argosy, September 1965; and “Philip Marlowe’s Last Case”, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, January 1962. Chandler’s last completed work about Marlowe, his first Marlowe short story in more than twenty years, and the first short story originally written about Marlowe.


Raymond Chandler Essay


simple artThe Simple Art Of Murder

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Note: Chandler’s famous essay & four short stories


Raymond Chandler Bibliography


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