Chicago-born and London-raised, Raymond Thornton Chandler (July 23, 1888 – March 26, 1959) was a former oil executive fired from his job due to The Great Depression before becoming one of the most influential writers of Hardboiled Detective fiction, through seven novels, many short stories, and a number of essays, of which the most famous is 1944's "The Simple Art of Murder". He also had an influence on the developing Film Noir, both indirectly through adaptations of his novels, and more directly through a stint as a Hollywood screenwriter (he wrote the screenplays for Double Indemnity, The Blue Dahlia, and Strangers on a Train).
His most famous creation is Los Angeles private detective Philip Marlowe, the central character of his novels: The Big Sleep (1939), Farewell, My Lovely (1940), The High Window (1942), The Lady in the Lake (1943), The Little Sister (1949), The Long Goodbye (1953), and Playback (1958).
Chandler's works with their own trope pages include:
- Philip Marlowe novels
Chandler's other works provide examples of:
- Bitter Almonds: In "Nevada Gas", when a crooked lawyer is murdered with cyanide gas.
- The Butler Did It: "Trouble Is My Business". An interesting spin on this trope, as Chandler has the private eye and the butler share drinks and a laugh over being the only "average joes" involved in the case. Of course, that's over when the private eye figures everything out.
- Chandler American Time: Named by Stephen King in Chandler's honor in the short story "Umney's Last Case", and typified by countless pastiches of Chandler's work over the years. For his own part, Chandler simply wrote about the time in which he lived, exaggerated for poetic effect.
- Chandler's Law: The Trope Namer and Codifier, set down by Chandler in his essay "The Simple Art of Murder": when in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.note Typically it's hired goons (sometimes Dirty Cops) busting in on Marlowe in his office. True to form, they often provide the impetus for Marlowe to start investigating the case in earnest, since if it was worth sending goons to try and warn him off, somebody must have something to hide.
- Come Alone: In "Pearls Are a Nuisance", the protagonist is instructed to come to a remote location with the ransom money, alone. His friend insists on coming along, hidden in the back of the car, in case there's trouble. The other side don't show up, but then they were never going to anyway, because the friend was behind the whole thing and it was a set-up to get the protagonist somewhere quiet and rob him of the ransom money.
- Empathic Environment: The wind and heat in "Red Wind", rain in The Big Sleep.
- Expy: Philip Marlowe, protagonist of Chandler's novels, is pretty much John Dalmas, protagonist of Chandler's stories for Dime Detective magazine, who is pretty much Carmady, protagonist of Chandler's stories for Black Mask magazine. To the extent that the Dalmas and Carmady stories were subsequently collected and reprinted with Marlowe's name substituted for theirs.
- Gambit Pileup: Chandler's detectives often crack the case by finding some tangential intersection between two crimes, with the sheer corruption of Los Angeles/Bay City's syndicate gangsters, crooked police force, and wealthy elite resulting in a good deal of Right Hand Versus Left Hand attempts to hamfistedly cover up one crime leading to an obvious thread to pull which ends up leading the detective to the real culprit.
- Gas Chamber: "Nevada Gas" uses the well-sealed backseat of a limousine.
- Hand Cannon: Inverted in the novellas "Trouble Is My Business" and "Red Wind". Both stories feature hard guys carrying .22 target pistols. As Chandler puts it: "This guy uses a twenty-two. He uses it because he's good enough to get by with that much gun. That means he's good."
- Hardboiled Detective: Chandler basically codified the genre for once and for all.
- Heat Wave: See the memorable Weather Report Opening below from "Red Wind".
- Knee-capping: In one of his short stories, the protagonist stops one of the crooks from escaping by shooting in the most painful spot he could think of that wouldn't kill him: the back of the knee.
- Horrible Hollywood: His first two short stories ("Blackmailers Don't Shoot" and "Smart-Aleck Kill") deal directly with seedy goings-on in the film industry. In the '40s he briefly became a professional screenwriter, which (despite the money and award nominations) drove his opinion of Hollywood even further into the ground; he used the experience to write the Marlowe novel The Little Sister, as well as a number of scathing articles. His nicest opinions of Hollywood, expressed mostly in private letters, boiled down to, "It's not as bad as most of the other entertainment industries. Yet."
- Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: In "The Lady in the Lake" (the short story, not the novel which borrowed from it), a simple request to find an estranged wife leads to uncovering three murders and evidence of the Mafia laundering money through defense contracts.
- Money Mauling: The protagonist of "Trouble is My Business" carries a roll of quarters in his pocket that he uses as a fist load to give his punches extra impact.
- Patchwork Story: Chandler cannibalised previous short stories of his when creating his first two novels, and used elements of them for further novels, with the expectation that his magazine stories would disappear and never be seen again — he was mildly dismayed when they were collected in anthology form following the success of his later novels. The level of cannibalisation varied, from whole plots to select passages and descriptions. The novels go beyond simple Self-Plagiarism, however, as Chandler would usually try to build on what he had previously written, streamlining some plots while making others considerably more intricate, and adding depth to character motivation and the detective's insights over the course of the investigation. The lengthy descriptive passages, originally added to increase the page count, became the stylized, almost meditative Private Eye Monologues Chandler is known for.
- Private Eye Monologue: One of the major Trope Codifiers, Chandler was a master of the hardboiled internal monologue. The somewhat flowery and overblown prose which typifies the trope is often an attempt to deliberately emulate, homage, or parody Chandler's specific style.
- Purple Prose: Subverted. Chandler's descriptive writing evokes this, but his own skill makes it rise above that trope. Attempts to copy or parody his way with descriptive words tend to turn into Purple Prose.
- Right-Hand Cat: In "Finger Man", the corrupt politico (and Big Bad of the story) Frank Dorr has a large, black Persian cat on his desk, which he pets and plays with throughout his first conversation with the detective protagonist. The cat actually plays a role in the plot besides just characterizing the villain: when negotiations go south, the detective grabs the cat and throws it at Frank Dorr, then grabs Frank's gun during the resulting confusion.
- Sturgeon's Law: About twenty years before Sturgeon spoke it aloud, Chandler laid down an early form of it in a private letter:"Granted... ninety per cent of Hollywood's pictures are not really worth making; I say that ninety per cent of the books and plays and short stories they were made from are not worth seeing or reading, by the same standards. And you and I know those standards are not going to change in our time."
- Warrior Poet: Chandler dabbled as a romantic poet before enlisting in World War I. As noted above under Purple Prose, his hard-boiled detective fiction is essentially prose poetry about violence.
- Weather Report Opening: Red Wind starts with:There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.