Raymond Thornton Chandler was born in Chicago in 1888, but raised and educated in England. He returned to the United States in 1912, took to writing crime fiction during the Depression (having lost his job due to alcohol and absence) and died in California in 1959.

Chandler took after Dashiell Hammett in rejecting the parlor-puzzleism of English mystery stories, instead writing "gritty", realistic, and morally ambiguous fiction with real live characters. Yadda yadda "hard boiled" etc. Chandler was trying to write worthwhile literature in the "crime fiction" genre; I have no idea why anybody would want to do a thing like that, but he did it, and it worked. Chandler famously slagged off English mysteries in his essay "The Simple Art of Murder" (1944).

His novels all concern the private investigator Philip Marlowe, parts of whom have become, as Mr. Harward says, a genre stereotype: Marlowe is witty, idealistic, honorable, alcoholic, generally penniless, and frequently struck on the head with blunt instruments. Marlowe is also a pipe-smoker, a chess player, and widely read, but those features don't seem to have fired the public imagination in quite the same way as the wit, the whiskey, and the head wounds.

Leaving out short fiction (most not featuring Marlowe), Chandler wrote the following novels:
  1. The Big Sleep   (1939) (movified 1946, also some time in the 1970s IIRC)
  2. Farewell, My Lovely   (1940) (movified 1944, 1975)
  3. The High Window   (1942) (movified as The Brasher Doubloon, 1946)
  4. The Lady in the Lake   (1943) (movified 1946)
  5. The Little Sister   (1949) (movified as Marlowe, 1969)
  6. The Long Goodbye   (1953) (movified 1973)
  7. Playback   (1958)
Chandler also worked on the script for the movification of James M. Cain's Double Indemnity (1944), and the script of Alfred Hitchcock's 1951 adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel Strangers on a Train. (The same Patricia Highsmith whose The Talented Mr. Ripley was hammered into an unrecognizable mess this year by the midgets who swarm in Hollywood where Hitchcock once ran free. A-hem.) Chandler had a lot of problems with Strangers on a Train and ended up changing it significantly. Highsmith was always cavalier about motivation, and Chandler had... issues with that. Chandler also wrote an original screenplay, The Blue Dahlia, in 1946, which was produced.

Chandler died while writing his last novel, Poodle Springs. It was completed by Robert B. Parker in 1989, and has been published.

Chandler's "best novel" is really a matter of "personal preference"; had I to choose one, it'd be The Long Goodbye.

For random interest, William Faulkner and SF legend Leigh Brackett both worked on the script for The Big Sleep in 1944.

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