Sunday, January 24, 2010

Chandler's Post Card from the Springs

Swiss book dealer YGRbookS has a collection of Raymond Chandler books and papers available for sale, including issues of Black Mask where his short stories appeared, first editions of his novels, books by other authors from his personal library and correspondence. They are asking about $80K for the collection and you can see its description here.

Among the items included is a postcard Chandler wrote in 1957 to his English publisher Hamish Hamilton from Palm Springs, where Chandler had gone to complete his last published novel, Playback. YGRbookS included a scan of the card which I've reproduced here:

If you spend a bit of time at it, you can just make out the message Chandler penned to Hamilton:
There are so few of these oversized nonsenses that I may have sent you this one before. But don't kick me, I'm old and weak. Thanks for letter, which I shall answer very soon. Went to a party last night at a house which is the ideal setting for the 8 million dollar girl Marlowe is going to be married to in my next after the one I am finishing up. They'll have hell of a time squabbling. The party was elaborate but the same old thing. Elaborate catering and decorations but the same loud empty alcoholic voices. Love to all. Ray
The "next" Chandler refers to is the novel Poodle Springs, which Chandler left unfinished at the time of his death, but which Robert B. Parker would later complete with the blessing of the Chandler estate in 1989. In it, Chandler marries Linda Lorring from The Long Goodbye and goes to live with her in Poodle Springs (Chandler's pseudonymous name for Palm Springs).

As Frank MacShane writes in his biography of Chandler, The Life of Raymond Chandler:
Linda Loring's house was to be modeled on one owned by Mrs. Jessie Baumgardner, an acquaintance. It had some unusual features. "The front wall, for example," [Chandler wrote,] "is made of Japanese glass with butterflies in between the two sections. Every room has a door to the outside and a glass wall. There is an interior glass-walled patio which has an almost full-sized palm tree in it, a lot of tropical shrubs, and some pieces of desert rock which probably cost somebody nothing but some petrol, and probably cost her $200 a rock."
To see how this description was incorporated into Poodle Springs by Parker, you need only read the opening of Chapter Two where Marlowe describes the house he shares with his new wife:
It was a very handsome house except that it stank decorator. The front wall was plate glass with butterflies imprisoned in it. Linda said it came from Japan ... There was an interior patio with a large palm tree and some tropical shrubs, and a number of rough stones picked up on the high desert for nothing, but $250 apiece to the customer.
I was curious what the front of Chandler's postcard might have looked like so I did a little digging on the Internet. This seems likely to be the photo that adorns it:

At least it comes from a card by the same photographer and the same subject, the "picturesque Palm Springs Plaza."

In any case, the card provides an interesting link between two great writers--Chandler and Parker--both of whom sadly now "belong to the ages."


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