Most fans of Raymond Chandler associate the author with his hardboiled mystery novels and Philip Marlowe, his tough 1940s private detective with a taste for nicotine and alcohol. But it turns out there was another side to the iconic writer.
Los Angeles author Kim Cooper discovered an unpublished comic libretto written by Chandler in the Library of Congress, Sarah Weinman writes at the Guardian. The short text, containing the lyrics to an opera called “The Princess and the Pedlar,” has been in the library for almost 100 years.
Chandler, who was born in America, raised in England and moved back to the U.S. after college, registered the libretto with the Library of Congress in 1917. That year, America had finally joined World War I, and Chandler traveled to British Columbia to enlist in the Canadian Army. The two events coincide: He enlisted Aug. 14; on Aug. 29, the Library of Congress registered his libretto.
Chandler’s text, Weinman writes, is “a witty, Gilbert-and-Sullivan-inflected libretto for a fantasy-tinged romance between Porphyria, daughter to the King and Queen of the Arcadians, and Beautiful Jim, a ‘strolling Pedlar.’”
Cooper, who conducts literary and crime bus tours in Los Angeles, found the libretto after penning a novel (“The Kept Girl”) featuring Chandler as a character.
Cooper planned to produce the opera, which features music by Chandler’s friend Julian Pascal, a concert pianist, but Chandler’s estate has declined to grant the author permission.
The Guardian quotes the estate’s literary executor as writing, “It is a very early work, and not representative of Chandler’s oeuvre. Yes, it is of course a curiosity, but we feel no more than that.” Cooper is hoping the estate changes its mind, and is asking people to sign a petition urging it to reconsider.