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

Tom Williams

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

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 Now, drawing on new interviews, previously unpublished letters and archives on both sides of the Atlantic, literary gumshoe Tom Williams casts light on this most mysterious of writers. 3.8 out of 5 based on 5 reviews
A Mysterious Something in the Light: Raymond Chandler, A Life

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Biography, Literary Studies & Criticism
Format Hardback
Pages 400
RRP
Date of Publication July 2012
ISBN 978-1845135263
Publisher Aurum Press
 

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 Now, drawing on new interviews, previously unpublished letters and archives on both sides of the Atlantic, literary gumshoe Tom Williams casts light on this most mysterious of writers.

"How Raymond Chandler was driven to madness by his love for an opium smoking nudist" | Daily Mail

Reviews

The Times

Marcel Berlins

Tom Williams is the third and best biographer of Chandler. Like the others, he has drawn heavily on the large body of letters written by his subject to a wide range of recipients. But Williams has unearthed even more correspondence, and has delved deeper into Chandler’s life before Marlowe ... Tom Williams’s packed, insightful, entertaining biography will, I feel, be the last on Chandler.

16/07/2012

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The Sunday Times

John Carey

Outstanding ... Williams writes sensitively about the Cissy relationship, and delves illuminatingly into the composition of Chandler’s masterpieces, Farewell, My Lovely, The Little Sister and The Long Good-Bye. 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 Angles as a pit of corruption, controlled by underworld bosses and bent policemen.

22/07/2012

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Scotland on Sunday

Stuart Kelly

Precise, kindly and necessary … When Chandler’s wife died, he was in the Greatest Wrong Place. His alcoholism became flamboyant. His prose withered. His uprightness crumbled, and led to fanciful claims of sexual bravado. All of this has led other writers to diagnose Chandler as a repressed homosexual, and Williams is right, and decent, to treat such claims with a healthy smidgeon of scepticism. I far prefer his conclusion, which is neatly tied to Chandler’s own letters: this was a lonely, lonely man. He thought he was a failure and set out to create the conditions in which that insight might become true.

22/07/2012

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The Spectator

Sam Leith

Absorbing ... Williams calls his subject ‘Ray’, which I’m stuffy enough not to like (I felt the same about the biographer who called Robert Lowell ‘Cal’), but it’s a token of the welcome spirit of affection in which he writes. Here’s a straightforward, largely well paced and sympathetic account of the life, marred by a slight weakness for banalities of the ‘As he waved goodbye to England, he could not have known that in five years he would be back’ type. Of Chandler, drunk, calling his wife, threatening suicide, Williams tells us: ‘It must have been awful for her.’ Really? There’s so much here that’s interesting and poignant, though, you can forgive the gaucheness.

21/07/2012

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The Financial Times

Christopher Bray

“I guess maybe there are two kinds of writers,” Chandler once said. “Writers who write stories and writers who write writing.” ... Tom Williams isn’t a writer who writes writing. “The plan he had outlined in 1939 had not unfolded as planned ... ” How many seconds with a thesaurus would it take to lose that ugly repetition? Alas, Williams isn’t any more of a storyteller — at least in the sense that he has little to add to the tale told in Frank MacShane’s The Life of Raymond Chandler (1976) and retold once already in Tom Hiney’s Raymond Chandler (1997). Williams claims to have unearthed more detail on Chandler’s early life, but the use he makes of it ceases being perfunctory only in order to be perverse.

20/07/2012

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