I paid $4.95 for this book at Downtown Books in Milwaukee one weekend when I accumulated a number of biographical pieces about Raymond Chandler. (See also my report on Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe earlier this year.)
Perhaps this book could better be called The England of Raymond Chandler; twenty years after his death, it collects a few essays but a number of interviews and memories from people who met him in England in the year or so before he died. Perhaps I only think that because the book’s longest piece, “His Own Long Goodbye” by Natasha Spender, chronicles in excruciating detail the shape he was in in London in the late 1950s and how the writer of the piece and her friends helped him survive England. All right, it’s probably accurate in its detail of his failing health, his end-of-life melancholy and suicidal tendencies, but it’s not what I wanted to dwell on about Chandler.
Some of the essays do discuss Marlowe and the evolution of Chandler’s writing and his storied past, so it’s worth it if you’re a big fan of the man, but to the casual reader who likes hard-boiled mysteries, it’s a bust.