31 Aug 2018

Ray Chandler and Ian Fleming

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Raymond Chandler and Ian Fleming

Writers Ian Fleming and Raymond Chandler oddly enough actually formed a friendship in the 1950s. After Chandler’s death in 1959, Fleming wrote a long piece about his friend in the December 1959 issue of the London Magazine, which they’ve thoughtfully reprinted.

I first met Raymond Chandler at a dinner party given by Stephen and Natasha Spender some time in May 1955. He was just coming out of the long spell of drinking which followed the death of his wife. She died after a three years’ illness in their house at La Jolla, in California. When the police arrived they found Raymond Chandler in the sitting room firing his revolver through the ceiling. Chandler never recovered from the tragedy and, whatever the reality of his married life, his wife became a myth which completely obsessed the following years.

He sold his house in California and every scrap of furniture that reminded him of her and came to England, perhaps in one of those flights back to one’s youth and childhood (he was educated at Dulwich and worked for some time in London) that badly hurt people sometimes resort to.

He was very nice to me and said that he had liked my first book, Casino Royale, but he really didn’t want me to talk about anything much except the loss of his wife, about which he expressed himself with a nakedness that embarrassed me while endearing him to me. He showed me a photograph of her – a good-looking woman sitting in the sun somewhere. The only other snapshot in his note case was of a cat which he had adored. The cat had died within weeks of his wife’s death and this had been a final blow.

He must have been a very good-looking man but the good, square face was puffy and unkempt with drink. In talking, he never ceased making ugly, Hapsburg lip grimaces while his head stretched away from you looking along his right or left shoulder as if you had bad breath. When he did look at you he saw everything and remembered days later to criticize the tie or the shirt you had been wearing. Everything he said had authority and a strongly individual slant based on what one might describe as a Socialistic humanitarian view of the world. We took to each other and I said that I would send him a copy of my latest book and that we must meet again.

RTWT

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