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Raymond Chandler

Margaret Aylward Dr Edward Barron Philip Barron Denis Cashman Raymond Chandler Paddy Coad Patrick Comerford Donncha Ruadh Val Doonican Sean Dunne Frank Edwards Alfie Hale John M Hearne William Hobson Dr Thomas Hussey Charles Kean John Keane Edmund Leamy D. P. Moran Gen Dick Mulcahy James Nash Peter O'Connor Jas Louis O'Donnell Pádraig Ó Fainín Gilbert O'Sullivan John Redmond Edmund I Rice James Rice, Mayor Lord Roberts V. C. John Roberts Frank Ryan Thomas Sexton Archbishop Sheehan Susan Smith John Treacy Luke Wadding William V. Wallace Cardinal Wiseman Bullocks Wyse Lucien Bonaparte Wyse




The famous crime novelist, although born in Chicago, had an immediate, and intimate, connection with Waterford - his mother, Florence, was a member of the Thornton family of Waterford. She and her elder sister Grace were two of five daughters from a prosperous family in Waterford, all of whom were members of Waterford's Quaker community. Grace had married an Irish settler in Nebraska, one Ernest Fitt. Ernest was a boiler inspector and was 'doubtfully honest' according to Chandler. It was while on a visit to Grace that Florence, by now a lapsed Quaker, met Maurice Chandler.        

Maurice was a railway engineer, an alcoholic and also a lapsed Quaker. Curiously, the Chandlers had also lived in the same Waterford Quaker community as the Thorntons. Maurice and Florence married at an Episcopalian church in Laramie, Wyoming in the summer of 1887 and their only child, Raymond Thornton Chandler, was born the following year on July 23rd, 1888, in Chicago. The marriage fell apart very soon after. Maurice's drinking reached epic proportions and Florence moved to Plattsmouth, Nebraska where she found some refuge with her sister Grace and family. In 1895 the Chandlers divorced and Florence and Raymond decided to return to Ireland.

When Raymond was a boy, he and his mother were regular summer visitors to the city where they would stay with Florence's brother, Ernest Thornton, who was the head of the family firm of Thornton & Son, Solicitors, with their offices at Cathedral Square in the city. The building that housed the offices is still there - a large, brooding, house - one of seven Elizabethan houses on the north side of the square opposite the Protestant Cathedral. It is now a private dwelling. On Sunday mornings, mother and son were regular worshippers at the services in the Cathedral. Chandler was sent away in 1900, at age twelve, to Dulwich College, one of England's best public schools, but for many years he and his mother would spend the summers in Waterford. He loved the college and was grateful for the classical education that he received there but he cherished the summers that he spent in Waterford.       

The Waterford writer, Bill Long, made Chandler's acquaintance in London in 1958 when they lived two doors apart in Chelsea. Being neighbours, they knew each other by sight although they had never spoken. One rainy day, while Long was waiting for a bus, Chandler's limousine pulled up and Chandler's driver asked Long if he needed a lift. When Chandler heard Long speak he became agitated and, saying that he had an ear for dialects, he guessed that Long came from Waterford. Long wrote that Chandler was quite visibly moved on hearing that he was correct. Chandler spoke of his mother and her family and said that he remembered how snobbish and bigoted his mother's people, the Thorntons, were, especially about class and Catholicism.  Everyone who worked for them had to be Protestant. Chandler admitted that he had inherited those faults also, and that he was very class-conscious. He recalled his Uncle Ernest as being a regular tyrant. He concluded by saying that he always had a good time in Waterford.

Chandler had parties in his house every week where the 'beautiful' people would gather. He was seventy at that time, a widower and in poor health, but he was a kind, gracious and generous host. Crowds tired him and, often, he and Long would leave the party-goers and retire to Chandlers study where, invariably, Chandler wanted to talk about Waterford. He would ask Long to tell him about the Waterford of Long's youth, forty years after Chandler had known it. Long said that Chandler would often take pencil and paper, and make lists of streets and squares and laneways of the old city, just as James Joyce did in recalling Dublin. Chandler loved to talk about the Port and of the ships that traded in and out of it. He spoke often about the 'big houses' in Waterford that he had visited with his mother and Uncle Ernest, whose law firm handled the legal business for the owners, all of them overwhelmingly Protestant of course.

Chandler often spoke about Power's second-hand bookshop that he frequented in Waterford. This was the famous "Sticky Back" Power's shop, known to several generations of Waterford people. Once, while talking about the bookshop, Chandler became quite emotional and told Long how much the old city meant to him. He said that of all the places he had lived in (and he stressed the word all) Waterford was the place that drew him back, in his mind, all the time. Chandler startled Long, on one occasion when he was talking about "Sticky Back's," by saying that he had been thinking about the old bookshop and had come up with an idea for a new Philip Marlowe novel. He thought it would be a wonderful idea to use the shop, and the maze of streets and lanes surrounding it, as a setting for the novel. He outlined the plot.  

Marlowe is visiting Ireland and he stops in Waterford for a few days. He visits a bar on the quays in Waterford and there he witnesses a fight  between sailors from different ships.  The next day he hears that one of the sailors from the fight has been murdered and the body was found slumped in Sticky Back's doorway. That evening Marlowe is recognized by the captain of the murdered sailor's boat and is asked to investigate.

And so begins the new Philip Marlowe mystery. Let's pause a moment and think a little bit about that. We could have had a Philip Marlowe novel set in Waterford and, when the inevitable film version was made, would it have starred Humphrey Bogart and would the film crews have filmed in Waterford? Nothing came of it, however, and Chandler died the following year.

In his professional career Chandler was one of the leading writers of the "hard-boiled" school of detective fiction and his stories are noted for their realism and violence. Chandler created the private eye (private investigator) Philip Marlowe, a modern knight who roams the Los Angeles area, protecting the helpless and bringing the guilty to justice. He published his first story in 1933 in Black Mask, a magazine that specialized in detective stories. From 1943 he was a Hollywood screenwriter. Among his best-known scripts were for the films Double Indemnity (1944), The Blue Dahlia (1946), and Strangers on a Train (1951), the last written in collaboration with Czenzi Ormonde.

Chandler wrote slowly and carefully. He produced only seven novels, all with Philip Marlowe as hero: 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). Among his numerous short-story collections are Five Murderers (1944) and The Midnight Raymond Chandler (1971). The most popular film versions of Chandler's work were Murder, My Sweet (1945; also distributed as Farewell, My Lovely), starring Dick Powell, and The Big Sleep (1946), starring Humphrey Bogart, both film noir classics.  A collection called The Simple Art of Murder (1950) includes short stories and an essay on Chandler's philosophy of detective-story writing.


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