This Day In Writing History
On October 24th, 1958, the legendary American mystery writer Raymond Chandler began work on his last novel, Poodle Springs, which would remain unfinished by him. It would feature the iconic character for which Chandler became famous.
That character was Philip Marlowe, a hard boiled private detective based in Los Angeles. Marlowe was different than the typical detective: intelligent (college educated) and complex, tough as nails yet sentimental at times, and semi-fluent in Spanish.
Marlowe had few friends and a passion for both classical music and the game of chess. If he suspected that a prospective client's job was unethical, he would refuse to take the case.
Chandler's writing style was hard-edged, fast moving, and peppered with clever and lyrical metaphors: "The minutes went by on tiptoe, with their fingers to their lips." This distinctive style would be referred to as Chandleresque.
Philip Marlowe made his debut in Chandler's early short stories and became the star of his classic first novel, The Big Sleep (1939). Chandler's last novel, Poodle Springs, was begun in 1958, near the end of his life.
Four years earlier, Chandler lost his beloved wife, Pearl "Cissy" Pascal, to a long illness. Devastated, he plunged into a quagmire of heavy drinking and severe depression. He never got around to interring Cissy's ashes and they sat in a storage locker for over fifty years.
Left alone at the age of 66 after nearly thirty years of marriage, Chandler attempted suicide in 1955. Thankfully, he had called the police to warn them of his intentions. He went to England for a time to recover from his mental breakdown.
Back home in the United States, he continued to drink. By 1958, he decided to take up writing again and pen another Philip Marlowe novel. Poodle Springs was Chandler's nickname for Palm Springs, where "every third elegant creature you see has at least one poodle."
There, Marlowe settles down with his new wife, wealthy socialite Linda Loring. Marlowe and Loring began their affair in the classic novel, The Long Goodbye (1953). Chandler envisioned their married life as "a running fight interspersed with amorous interludes."
In The Long Goodbye, Philip Marlowe described Linda Loring this way:
...There is the soft and willing and alcoholic blonde who doesn't care what she wears as long as it is mink or where she goes as long as it is the Starlight Room and there is plenty of dry champagne. There is the small perky blonde who is a little pal and wants to pay her own way and is full of sunshine and common sense and knows judo from the ground up and can toss a truck driver over her shoulder without missing more than one sentence out of the editorial in the Saturday Review.
There is the pale, pale blonde with anemia of some non-fatal but incurable type. She is very languid and very shadowy and she speaks softly out of nowhere and you can't lay a finger on her because in the first place you don't want to and in the second place she is reading The Waste Land or Dante in the original, or Kafka or Kierkegaard or studying Provencal. She adores music and when the New York Philharmonic is playing Hindemith she can tell you which one of the six bass viols came in a quarter of a beat late. I hear Toscanini can also. That makes two of them...
After writing the first four chapters of Poodle Springs, Chandler lost interest in it, filed the manuscript away, and returned to his heavy drinking. He died several months later of alcoholism and kidney failure at the age of 70.
The first four chapters of Chandler's unfinished novel would be published as The Poodle Springs Story, included in Raymond Chandler Speaking (1962), a collection of letter excerpts and unpublished writings.
In 1988, to honor the author's 100th birthday, the Raymond Chandler estate hired crime writer Robert B. Parker to complete Chandler's unfinished novel. It was published as Poodle Springs in 1989.
Quote Of The Day
"Everything a writer learns about the art or craft of fiction takes just a little away from his need or desire to write at all. In the end he knows all the tricks and has nothing to say." - Raymond Chandler
Today's video features a rare 30-minute BBC Radio interview with Raymond Chandler - conducted by Ian Fleming! Enjoy!