Happy birthday, Raymond Chandler

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Raymond Chandler, an oil exec who lost his job for drinking and carrying on with a secretary, cleaned up to become one of the most enduring writers of detective fiction. The hard-boiled detective Philip Marlowe and Chandler’s take on Los Angeles have influenced generations of writers. To celebrate his birthday today, we asked some fans what they’d give him, or say to him, for his 120th.

Judith Freeman, author of the Chandler biography ‘The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved’: ‘A night with Cissy. And of course red roses.’


Tod Goldberg, author of ‘Simplify’ and contributor to ‘Las Vegas Noir’: ‘I like to give people presents they can use, so I’d probably give Chandler a shovel and a pick-axe, which would be useful in getting out of the grave and for beating to death all the people — including this one — who’ve ripped him off over the years. I suspect Chandler would also find it very odd to go into a Barnes & Noble and find that every mid-list crime novelist is being compared to him, and usually favorably, in their jacket copy. In fact, I don’t know a single crime writer (including members of my family!) who’ve not been called Chandleresque, which makes me think most people haven’t really read much Raymond Chandler.’

many more presents after the jump.

Sarah Weinman, who blogs about crime fiction and writes the L.A. Times’ monthly Dark Passages column: ‘Happy birthday, Mr. Chandler. Without you and Philip Marlowe, hard-boiled fiction wouldn’t be what it is today. Period.’

Bobby McCue, aka ‘Dark Bobby,’ manager of The Mystery Bookstore: ‘I think I would ask, ‘Did you ever feel during your writing career that your work would be the benchmark most writers would strive to achieve and would stand up as the writing standard of excellence in crime fiction? By the way, happy birthday, Raymond.’ And I would give him one of those credit-card-sized magnifying glasses with the little light that shines so you can see the bar tab total when it comes at the end of the night.’

Richard Schave, host of the Esotouric Chandler bus tours: ‘I’d give Raymond Chandler a proper bookstore to live near, with a genial, intelligent proprietor, a lively clientele with a decent proportion of pretty lady bookworms, and a back room where he could retire to drink the store’s liquor and wrestle with the problems of his latest manuscript. (This is essentially a description of the Stanley Rose Bookshop, which formerly inhabited what is now the ‘new room’ at Musso & Frank.)’

Denise Hamilton, author of the new period mystery ‘The Last Embrace’ and editor of ‘Los Angeles Noir’: ‘This sounds very pedestrian and boring, considering how deeply the lone wolf, hard-drinking, femme-fatale magnet persona of Philip Marlowe is embedded into our mythology of the man, but I would wish Chandler 10 more years of sobriety and good health with his wife, Cissy. Chandler was at his most productive during the years he was relatively content, settled and sober. Which is probably true of a lot of writers.’

Neal Pollack, contributor to ‘Brooklyn Noir’ and author of ‘Alternadad’: ‘I would give him a long, cool stretch of isolated highway so he could drive up to the coast and clear his head. And I would ask him if I could borrow it.’

Tod Goldberg also says: ‘I typically say the same thing to people on their birthday, which is I offer them the rare opportunity to hear me sing the birthday song from Ruby’s Diner, where I worked as a college student, in celebration of their long lives. It goes like this:

Hey, we’re here to celebrate a very special day
The day that Raymond Chandler was born and we’d like to say
We’re gonna sing and dance and play ... hey!
We’re going to blow out the candles and we’ll be on our way
It’s your birthday now
Do what you want to do
It’s Raymond Chandler’s birthday and we’ll sing it for you...

What would you give Raymond Chandler?

Carolyn Kellogg
(who would give him a laptop and ask him to write another novel, pretty please)