How Raymond Chandler Mastered His Craft and Rescued His Life

Sarah Thomas
7 min readDec 30, 2022
Photo by Maxim Hopman on Unsplash

LA in the early 1930s. Around 2000 people are arriving in the city per week, driven by the great depression and looking for a better turn of fortune.

In the final years of prohibition, black market alcohol is booming, and the notorious LAPD has untold resources to service the needs of the city’s power elite.

Chief of police, James E Davis, directs a campaign of brute force and strong-arm tactics against vagrants and any opposition towards city hall, all sponsored by the city’s organised crime and media execs.

It was the perfect setting for a noir tale like Roman Polanski’s Chinatown and the real-world stomping ground of one soon-to-be inventor of a new grade of the detective novel, Raymond Chandler.

In LA, the only difference between crime and business was capital, Philip Marlowe (by Raymond Chandler.)

Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler, an accountant, turned oil exec and alcoholic turned writer, has an inspiring “rags to riches” journey into becoming one of the most revered detective fiction writers and creator of a new pulp-literary hybrid genre.

He was born in Chicago in 1888 to an alcoholic father who abandoned the family and created a ghost for Chandler, who did his best to avoid repeating his father’s behaviour when sober. He moved to London as a boy and received an education at Dulwich College, where his alums included the writers P.G Wodehouse and C.S.Forester.

Instead of going to university after college, he embarked on an education of other sorts, one most valuable for a writer, a decade of dabbling in various careers and inhabiting different worlds. He was a poet, journalist and civil servant before returning to the US in 1912.

During the first world war, he enlisted with the Canadian Army and was thrown immediately into action on the front line in France; his battalion endured gas attacks and heavy bombardment. Nevertheless, he survived three front-line tours in some of the bloodiest battles of a nasty war and was seconded to the newly formed Royal Air Force when the war ended. More on the impact of his wartime experience is below.

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Sarah Thomas

Storyteller, ex playwright (produced), award winning screenwriter, always writing. Creating story-based content for businesses. Based in Aberdeen.