Thursday, 25 July 2013

LETTERS OF NOTE: More Raymond Chandler

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Last June I posted about the great pulp novelist Raymond Chandler, who created the character of Philip Marlowe and in doing so helped to shape the modern detective story. That post concerned his disregard for contemporary science fiction; this time the subject matter is a little more poignant.

In December 1954, Cissy Chandler, Raymond's wife of 30 years, passed away after a long battle with pulmonary fibrosis. During her long illness, Chandler had penned The Long Goodbye, which was to become his most highly regarded novel. But after her death, he returned to the alcoholism that Cissy had helped him to avoid, his work declined and he died five years later in 1959.
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Shortly after Cissy's death, Chandler penned a letter to his good friend Leonard Russell, which you can read here. It's a very moving piece, packed with his regrets and insecurities about the quality of his work. It reminded me to some extent of John Fowles, who never wrote another novel after the death of his own wife in 1990. We tend to give writers a lot of credit as individuals, and a lot of the time that is deserved, but the people around them often provide either the control or creative spark that they really need.
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For more on alcoholism among writers, check out my previous post concerning Anton Chekhov here.

Daniel

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