The highlights of Raymond Chandler’s life tell a deeply depressing tale: an alcoholic father violently abused his mother, a mother whose subsequent fearful refusal to have anything to do with men once she was finally free of Chandler’s father no doubt colored Chandler’s own questionable attitudes towards women, a refusal to write Hollywood scripts in any state short of blind drunk, and an obsession with an opium-smoking nudist 18 years his senior whose death in December 1954 at the age of 84 arguably became the catalyst for Chandler’s own death four and half alcohol-infused years later.
Readers of his Phillip Marlowe books may not be all that surprised to learn of Chandler’s conflicted relationships with women, alcohol, and the institution of marriage in general.
But one fact in all this torment actually did surprise me. Chandler didn’t write his first novel, The Big Sleep, until 1938, when he had already turned 50.
If you’d like to learn more about Chandler, I hear there’s a rather excellent biography of him available by Tom Williams, called Raymond Chandler: A Mysterious Something in the Light.