Raymond Chandler’s creamy crime introduction
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The folks at Esotouric are champions of the minutiae of L.A. literary history, and they’ve dug up some great stuff about the early days of Raymond Chandler.
Chandler, who had been born in Illinois and brought up in England, came back to America in 1913. According to Judith Freeman’s book ‘The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved,’ it was the return trip to the U.S. that would determine Chandler’s fate -- on the steamship, he met a friendly couple, the Lloyds, who lived in Los Angeles. Which then became his destination.
Once here, Warren Lloyd helped him get a job with his employer, the Los Angeles Creamery.
Esotouric details the events of 1912, when the head of the creamery, George E. Platt, was found guilty and fined for selling a mixture of milk and condensed milk as ‘cream.’ When he began work there, did Chandler know of his boss’ legacy of corruption/ illegal penny pinching? It’s hard to say; but when things got a little crazy for George E. Platt in 1914, Chandler would have had a hard time missing the headlines. Esotouric writes:
Platt was stalked and shot by a business associate who claimed he was being ripped off in a real estate deal. The aggrieved C.P. Deyoe drove from his Hollywood home to the intersection of Sixth and Ardmore, where he knew Platt (resident of 520 Ardmore) and contractor Frank O. Jean (452 Ardmore) caught the streetcar to work. Jean was late that day, lucky fellow. But Platt was waiting for the train, and accepted a ride from Deyoe.
It was not a pleasant trip. Deyoe immediately launched into the same old story about how Platt owed him $10,000 commission on Platt’s purchase of the Scorpion Ranch in Owensmouth, and furthermore, Platt’s friend and neighbor Frank O. Jean owed him money, too. When Deyoe asserted that if it hadn’t been for the money he was owed, Jean wouldn’t have been able to build Platt’s new house on Ardmore for him, Platt objected. That’s when Deyoe pulled out his gun.
George Platt jumped from the car at Sixth and Catalina, failing to yank the gun away as he ran, and Deyoe shot him in the back, then shot himself in the head. The assailant died instantly, and his victim lingered in terrible agonies at California Hospital with a bullet lodged in his abdomen. He survived.
Chandler surely had other things on his mind at the time: His mother had moved to California from England and he was renting the two of them an apartment in L.A.’s Bunker Hill. Plus, he was getting to know -- and perhaps falling for -- Cissy Pascal, who was, at the time, married to Julian Pascal (she would later get a divorce and marry Chandler).
Nevertheless, it is tempting to imagine the young Raymond Chandler following the news of the attempted murder of his company’s owner -- and, as a bookkeeper, idly unthreading exactly what might have happened with that land deal gone wrong -- as he formed an indelible impression of his adopted city. One where even a creamery owner might make corruption his business, and drive someone to a murderous rage.
-- Carolyn Kellogg