Our July talk was by John Clegg on “Raymond Chandler – Often imitated, never surpassed.” John gave a succinct summary of Chandler’s life and short readings from the books in his inimitable style.
Chandler was born in Chicago in 1888. He spent most of his youth in London, where his Irish mother joined her family. He was a pupil at Dulwich College. In 1912 he returned to America. He joined the Canadian Gordon Highlanders to serve in WW1 and later trained as an accountant which led to a successful career in the oil industry. Unfortunately, he inherited his father’s alcoholism and lost his job in 1932. He turned to writing short detective stories and in 1939 made his breakthrough with his novel The Big Sleep. His talent was for character and atmosphere, rather than plot, and in this John believed him unsurpassed. He struggled with alcoholism and depression in the last ten years of his life but did write, in John’s opinion, his finest book The Long Goodbye. His early death in 1959 came as no surprise. John’s theme and introductory sentence was that Chandler was Philip Marlowe, the hero of his books. Many features of his life find an echo in the Chandler novels. It was an informative and interesting presentation.
There was time for some questions and lively discussion, on such topics as the literary traditions of Dulwich College.
Edited version of notes kindly submitted by Richard Wilby.