Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler by Frank MacShane (ed) - review by Ruth Dudley Edwards

Ruth Dudley Edwards

Complete Writer

Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler

By

Jonathan Cape 501pp. £12.50 order from our bookshop
 

These are wonderful letters – passionate, furious, funny, trenchant, informed and intelligent. Whether addressing the famous or the unknown, Chandler gave of his best on a range of subjects that included politics, religion, Hollywood, literature, sex, alcohol, food and himself.

Sincere emotion is rarely absent. J B Priestley ‘likes my books, says he smiling politely in order to get the subject out of the way and forget it, then he wishes I would write something without murders in it. Now isn’t that a typical attitude? You slam murder mysteries à la Edmund Wilson, because they are usually written, you say, by people who can’t write well. And the moment you find someone who you are willing to admit can write well, you tell him he should not be writing murder mysteries.’

Chandler took murder mysteries seriously, as he took all his work. His first novel, The Big Sleep, was quickly followed by three more which established his reputation as a major new talent in crime writing. Financial necessity drove him for a while to Hollywood as a writer, where he was

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