A Mysterious Something in the Light by Tom Williams
The Life of Raymond Chandler

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...the book may be too myopic for most fans of crime writing.
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

Drawing on new interviews, previously unpublished letters, and archives, this biography casts a new light on Raymond Chandler, one of the most mysterious of writers. The man revealed was troubled by loneliness and desertion from an early age—experiences that informed his writing as much as they scarred his life. The bleak picture details the collapse of his parents’ marriage, and the relocation of Chandler and his mother to Ireland, and later London, due to his father’s alcohol-fueled violence. In his 20s, he returned to the United States and he met his one great love, Cissy Pascal, a married woman 18 years his senior. Only during middle age, after his own alcoholism dissolved a lucrative career as an oilman, did Chandler turn to crime fiction, although his success proved bittersweet. His literary obsession, ambition, and suicidal turn after Cissy’s death combined to prevent him from living up to the promise of his first novels. This long-awaited biography shadows one of the true literary giants of the 20th century and considers how crime writing was raised to the level of art.

The life of Raymond Chandler has long been obscured by secrets and half-truths as deceptive as anything in his novel The Long Goodbye. Now, drawing on new interviews, previously unpublished letters, and archives on both sides of the Atlantic, Tom Williams casts a new light on this most mysterious of writers.

The Raymond Chandler revealed is a man troubled by loneliness and desertion from an early age. Born in Chicago in 1888, his childhood was overshadowed by the collapse of his parents’ marriage, his father’s alcohol-fuelled violence eventually forcing the boy and his doting mother to leave for Ireland and later London. But class-bound England proved stifling, and Chandler, in his twenties and eager to forge a new life, returned to the United States where—in corruption-ridden Los Angeles—he met his one great love, Cissy Pascal, a married woman eighteen years his senior.

It was only during middle age, after his alcoholism wrecked a lucrative career as an oilman, that Chandler seriously turned to crime fiction. And his legacy—the lonely, ambiguous world of Philip Marlowe—endures, compelling generations of crime writers to follow him.

In this long-awaited new biography, Tom Williams shadows one of the true literary giants of the twentieth century and considers how crime writing was raised to the level of art.

 

About Tom Williams

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Tom Williams has spent six years investigating the life and times of Raymond Chandler. This is his first book.
 
Published September 1, 2013 by Chicago Review Press. 396 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Education & Reference, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for A Mysterious Something in the Light
All: 4 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 2

Kirkus

Good
on Jun 09 2013

...this is a thorough assessment of a talented, troubled writer whose obsessions fed his work and confounded his life. A cleareyed, compassionate biography.

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Publishers Weekly

Below average
on Jun 10 2013

Meticulously annotated and researched, and written with a tangible fondness, it’s hard not to appreciate Williams’s efforts. Still, the book may be too myopic for most fans of crime writing.

Read Full Review of A Mysterious Something in the... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly

Above average
on Jun 10 2013

...the book may be too myopic for most fans of crime writing.

Read Full Review of A Mysterious Something in the... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

WSJ online

Above average
Reviewed by Andrew Klavan on Dec 13 2013

"A Mysterious Something in the Light," by British literary agent Tom Williams, is a strongly researched and highly readable new Chandler biography that enlarges on and occasionally corrects the groundbreaking 1976 work by Frank MacShane and the more literary 1997 examination by Tom Hiney.

Read Full Review of A Mysterious Something in the... | See more reviews from WSJ online

Reader Rating for A Mysterious Something in the Light
85%

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