“Raymond Chandler invented a new way of talking about America, and America has never looked the same to us since.”
If we rewind to 1928 and look at a 40-year-old Raymond Chandler, we do not see any proof that he is (or even is becoming) the writer Raymond Chandler. That is the writer of not only seven novels including Farewell, My Love , and the screenplays that would be directed by Billy Wilder (Double Indemnity) and Alfred Hitchcock (Strangers on a Train). No evidence that Humphry Bogart would so eloquently speak the words of Chandler’s best known character Philip Marlowe on film, or that he would be nominated for two Academy Awards.
And if you met Raymond Chandler a year or so after the Great Depression when he was unemployed and drinking too much and he told you that he was going to be a writer, your response would have been something like, “Well, good luck with that.” And as you slithered away before he asked you to read something he wrote you’d be thinking to yourself, “Another delusion writer.”
Raymond Chandler in his early 40s was a walking cliché. Though he’d dabbled in poetry and journalism when he was younger, at the age of 44 he was a recently fired oil executive who decided instead of looking for a job to become a writer.
What are the odds against him getting published, much less becoming the writer Raymond Chandler? Tremendous. But, hey, writers write.
“With a $100 a month stipend from his friends Edward and Paul Lloyd he began working on a short story for the pulp magazine Black Mask. The story was entitled ‘Blackmailers Don’t Shoot’ and appeared in the December 1933 issue. It took him five months to write and he was paid $180. After that, he said, he ‘never looked back,’ but he wrote slowly and made very little money from his stories.”
Raymond Chandler on Writing
And he kept at it and kept publishing short stories until 1939—at the age of 51— his first novel, The Big Sleep was published. It introduced the detective Philip Marloww to the world, was widely read, became a movie in 1946 (with William Faulkner as one of the screenwriters), and in 2005 the novel made Time magazine’s list of 100 ALL-TIME 100 Novels (published between 1923 and 2005).
All that to say that Chandler was a highly unlikely—and successful— late bloomer.