Raymond Chandler: A Mysterious Something in the Light: a Life

Author(s): Tom Williams


What we know of Raymond Chandler is shrouded in secrets and half-truths as deceptive as anything in his magisterial novel The Long Goodbye. Now, drawing on new interviews, previously unpublished letters and archives on both sides of the Atlantic, literary gumshoe Tom Williams casts light on this most mysterious of writers. The Chandler revealed is a man troubled by loneliness and desertion from an early age - experiences that fuelled his writing as much as they scarred his life. Born in Chicago in 1888, his childhood was overshadowed by the cruel collapse of his parents' marriage and his father's alcohol-fuelled violence. After his mother fled America, Chandler was schooled in London, but felt constrained by the stuffy English class system, eventually returning to the land of his birth, where - in corruption-ridden Los Angeles - he met his one great love: Cissy Pascal, a married woman 18 years his senior. It was only during middle age, after his own alcoholism wrecked a lucrative career as an oilman, that Chandler seriously turned to crime fiction, although his success was to prove bittersweet. An obsessive attitude towards his craft, unrealised literary ambitions and a suicidal turn after Cissy's death combined to prevent him from recapturing the verve of his earlier writing. But his legacy - the lonely, ambiguous world of Philip Marlowe - endures, compelling generation after generation of crime writers to go down mean streets. In this long-awaited new biography, the most thorough and comprehensive yet written, Tom Williams shadows one of the twentieth century's true literary giants and considers how crime was raised to the level of art.


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'This biography is the best all-round portrayal of the troubled California writer' The Rap Sheet 'Despite the belligerence and arrogance detailed in this book, Williams writes with a cool, detached hand, allowing many previously unseen letters to speak for themselves... a lucid and taut examination of the first "hard boiled" writer to turn populist pulp writing into a more erudite art form' Sunday Express 'Tom William is the third and best biographer of Chandler... his packed, insightful, entertaining biography will, I feel, be the last on Chandler ... a difficult and lonely man who led a dissatisfied and disappointed life' -- Marcel Berlins The Times 'Williams does not flinch from describing his subject's faults but he lets his enthusiasm for the books shine through ... he knows the value of letting Chandler speak for himself' -- Jake Kerridge Daily Telegraph 'Outstanding... Williams writes sensitively about the Cissy relationship, and delves illuminatingly into the composition of Chandler's masterpieces... But he also commands a broader sweep, detailing the real-life criminal conspiracies and financial scams that lay behind Chandler's depiction of 1920s oil-boom Los Angeles as a pit of corruption... thanks to this biography Chandler himself is a less mysterious something than he was' -- John Carey The Sunday Times 'Williams's biography reminds us that as a man Chandler was a psychological mess, but as a writer he remains an enchanter' -- Michael Dirda Times Literary Supplement 'The most comprehensive biography of Chandler written to date' Western Morning News 'Tom William's biography helps us to understand a complicated and dislikeable man' The Oldie 'Absorbing... Chandler was a man in need of a friend - and in his biographer he finds one... There's so much here that's interesting and poignant... The end of his story is sad beyond words' -- Sam Leith Spectator 'Tom Williams creates a portrait of an author as mysterious and troubled as any fictional character, and provides a fascinating new insight into a rare and exacting genius, in this impressive piece of literary detective work' Good Book Guide 'Williams' book paints an intriguing portrait of a man in fragments' -- Xan Brooks Guardian 'We are used nowadays to fictional detectives who can rarely win, because the crimes they investigate are only a small part of an evil system they can't completely fathom. This is Marlow's recurring plight. He was a pioneer sufferer from the paranoia about power and corruption that we all now live with. Thanks to this biography we know much more than we did before about the talented but unhappy man who created him' -- John Hinton Catholic Herald 'Chandler's life was tattered and unwieldy, filled with rage and frustration: his only consolation lay in filtering it all through his typewriter, so that it was transformed into his wry and magical prose... This new biography ... is a good starting point for those who can't resist a peek past the glittering stage-set of an author's work to the tawdry mess that so often lies beyond' -- Craig Brown Mail on Sunday - Book of the Week 'Succeeds in making a serious case for Chandler as an important, or at least an aspirant, modern... Williams is absolutely on the money' -- Brian Morton The Herald 'A thoroughly enjoyable read which blends Chandler's life with history, keeping it lively and entertaining' welovethisbook.com 'A thorough exploration of the writer who defined modern crime fiction' The List 'Precise, kindly and necessary' Scotland on Sunday 'The most comprehensive biography of Chandler written to date' Western Morning News 'Excellent' -- Ron Capshaw American Book Review 'Smashing... Certainly, by the end, its subject was completely smashed' Prospect 'Strongly researched and highly readable' -- Andrew Klavan Wall Street Journal 'A lovely biography written by an enthusiast for the fiction with sympathy for the life, without being misty-eyed' Sunday Herald

TOM WILLIAMS was born in Newcastle in 1981 and was educated at University College London. He now lives in Kentish Town and works in publishing. A Mysterious Something in the Light is his first book.

General Fields

  • : 9781781312155
  • : Aurum Press Ltd
  • : Aurum Press Ltd
  • : February 2014
  • : 198mm X 129mm
  • : United Kingdom
  • : February 2014
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Tom Williams
  • : Paperback
  • : 813.52
  • : 400
  • : 8pp b/w plates