How an American detective woke the
world and critiqued the American
Raymond ChandleR’s The Big Sleep: Presentation
Outline. ChandleR’s The Big Sleep: Presentation
• 1: Chandler’s background
and literary output.
1:2: The Big Sleep, what and
literary output. fiction.
makes it pulp
2:3:The Big Sleep, Literary it
• The Big Sleep, what makes
pulp fiction? themes and
3:The Big Sleep:Literary
• 4:The Big themes and motifs.
innovations, Sleep, Critical
4:The Big Sleep, Critical
• 5: Conclusions.
Raymond Chandler: 1888 – 1959 A life.
Born July1888 Chicago, Illinois, United States.
Spent early years in Nebraska surrounded by close family.
1895: Abandoned by his father, an alcoholic civil engineer employed by the
railways, the Chandler family emigrate to London, England supported by
Chandler’s maternal Quaker uncle a successful lawyer based in Waterford
Classically educated at Dulwich College Prep School, whose alumni include
authors P Wodehouse and C.S. Forester.
Chandler spent his childhood summers with his maternal uncle in Waterford.
Spurned university, instead spending time in Paris and Munich, ostensibly to
improve his language skills.
1907: Became a naturalised British Citizen in order to take the civil service
examination. Spent a year at the Admiralty.
1912: Returned to U.S. settling in San Francisco, took various menial jobs
including stringing tennis rackets and picking fruit..
1913: Moved to Los Angeles and began working for The Los Angeles
Creamery Corp. across California.
1917: Enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, seeing combat in
France, experiencing shell shock and undergoing flight training with the RAF
when the war ended.
Raymond Chandler, the writer:
1907: Publishes his first romantic poem.
1908: Becomes a reporter for The Daily Express and the Bristol Western
Gazette newspapers. An unsuccessful journalist.
1908-1911: Writes poetry and essays for Westminster Gazette and The
1933: Blackmailers Don’t Shoot his first Pulp short story published in Black
1934-1938: Publishes 15 short stories in Black Mask and Dime Detective.
1939: Publishes debut novel The Big Sleep ,the first of novels
1944: Co-wrote his first screen play Double indemnity with Billy Wilder.,4
further screenwriter credits would follow.
1946: Writes his last Phillip Marlowe novel, Playback in San Diego.
1957: Writes his final short story, The Pencil..
“Wandering up and down the Pacific Coast in an automobile I began
to read pulp magazines, because they were cheap enough to throw
away and because I never had at any time any taste for the kind of
thing which is known as women’s magazines. This was in the great
days of the Black Mask…and it struck me that some of the writing was
pretty forceful and honest, even though it had its crude aspect. I
Clip from Howard Hawks seminal 1946
The Big Sleep: what makes it pulp fiction?
2.Number of Film adaptations etc.
4.Content: Sex, drugs, blackmail and
5.The hero: Cynical, hardboiled and
dangerous to know.
6.Narrative technique: Plot twists.
The Big Sleep: Literary innovations, themes
A 1. What makes the hard boiled detective such
an enduring character in literature and
2. Why was the hard boiled detective an
American rather than a European creation?
3. How does the hard boiled detective
develop the tropes of the Cowboy?
1. In what shape does the American Dream
emerge from the end of The Big Sleep?
Raymond Chandler interview part ¼ from 5:40 onwards: