Saturday, November 8, 2008

Chandler 2.0

For several years (from 1997 to 2003) I made a valiant effort at running The Raymond Chandler Web Site, an Internet website devoted to the works of Raymond Chandler. For many years, if you googled "Raymond Chandler" my site came up at the top of the list (which pleased me to no end the first time I discovered it); in recent times, the site has fallen to second, behind the Wikipedia entry for Chandler, but still pretty good, especially considering I haven't added any new content in five years.

My original concept for the site was that it would perform a function similar to that of scholarly newsletters in the 1960s and 1970s. These were cheaply produced things dedicated to particular authors or genres--usually typewritten and mimeographed and mailed out to a small list of subscribers, mostly academic specialists in the field. I figured I could update the form for the web, with new material coming out more frequently than the old quarterly newsletters, and including pictures--in general, making it more timely and more widely accessible and a better way for Chandler scholars and fans to share information about their favorite author. I would be the publisher/editor and would solicit contributions and people would submit entries--full-length articles, notes, and queries--about Raymond Chandler and before long we'd have a rollicking community going on.

It didn't quite turn out that way. What I envisioned as a lively exchange of material became pretty much a one-way feed. I posted bits of my Master's thesis and various articles I'd been working on and put up choice nuggets I found during my research for my Ph. D. dissertation, and in response I got mainly a lot of emails in the following three categories:

1. Desperate and often quite snippy emails from undergraduates asking me to provide the answers for their English 102 homework

2. Queries from people all over the globe trying to figure out who they could contact to obtain permissions to reprint Chandler's works (that contact, by the way, would be Margaret Phillips at Ed Victor Ltd, a London literary agency. Chorion acquired 75% of the Chandler estate in 2005, but I think Victor still is the main representative.)

3. Journalists looking to finish an article on Chandler without having to read anything Chandler wrote

I did get a few essays submitted by some talented students, and I happily posted them, but all in all I was sorely disappointed in how little input I received from scholars and researchers and mystery buffs--and this was the top ranking Chandler site on Google, not some page tucked away in a .edu domain where no one could find it.

Somewhere around 2000 I concluded that The Raymond Chandler Web Site was an experiment that failed. The site was there, I had populated it with what was (arguably) the most in-depth content on the web about Chandler (not that the content is all that deep, just deeper than anything else available out there), and invited the academic world to join the party and submit their contributions. And no one came to the party.

So, it wasn't going to be an academic newsletter type of community site. But, I was getting a lot of emails and commments from people who were clearly just Chandler fans--loved reading the novels and quoting the great lines but really had no interest in writing literary criticism about the books. So, I ran with an idea of Chandlerisms--I threw out a few of my favorite quotes from Chandler's novels and asked readers to submit theirs. And they did. Several a week, in fact, and I kept the Chandlerism feature going since it was the one thing that was drawing traffic.

But, after a year or so and after completing both a Ph.D. dissertation and a documentary biography of Chandler, I was a little burned out. I stopped making updates to the site and let it start to gather dust.

That was five years ago. A lot has changed since then. I've veered away from literary history and into the world of food writing. From blogs and wikis to Facebook and Twitter, the Internet has changed.

So, it seems like it's time to dust off the old Chandler Site, brush it up with a little DHTML and Web 2.0 razzle dazzle, and see what the old gal can do.

Leave some comments. Let me know what you think. I've got a filing cabinet full of material just waiting to be digitized!


Yoknapatawpha Kid said...

Dear Robert,

this is a great entry on Chandler! My name is Peter Ricci, and I am a college student and writer who currently contributes to Too Shy to Stop, an upstart online magazine focused on culture and the arts.

I found you entry, as it would turn out, while doing research for my own essay on Chandler. I focus on some of the more remarkable characteristics of Chandler's work, especially his dialogue and use of symbolism.

I am pleased to inform you that no, your Chandler site is not a failure! I am happy to see you are resuming work on it, as the essays, criticisms, and especially the information on Chandler's settings are fascinating reads.

If you have the time, be sure to check out my essay! I'd love for you to read it and comment. Also, I don't know if it is something you'll like to this extent, but I am positive that our fine editor at Too Shy would love to let you use the essay for your site. I don't want to jump ahead, or anything, but I feel passionate about Chandler's work and would love to contribute to a website devoted to his legacy.

Here is the link to the essay:


Peter Ricci

Tom Corbin said...

Really interested in your comments on Chandler. Stumbled across your web whilst researching for a similar attempt on my part, not confined to one author but a review of the pulp fiction era (my favorite). Nobody writes like the artists of that genre anymore.
How would today’s crime caper author say “You're not a detective, you're a slot machine. You'd slit your own throat for 6 bits plus tax.”
Somehow there was more romance in those old detective stories – described without street language so popular these days.
So if you do continue with the blog on Chandler I’d be privileged to tag along.

T Corbin

Anonymous said...

Great to see the web-page reborn.
Greeting from Ireland

Anonymous said...

I just found your site via the Wikipedia entry on Chandler. Great stuff! I'm finally getting around to reading some Chandler, after years of distractions. (Halfway through The Big Sleep.) I'm reading it on my Amazon Kindle and loving it.

Larry said...

As an ex-Angelino I will always have a softspot for Raymond Chandler's work. He is still and underrated writer. He also captured Los Angeles as well as anybody ever has. Keep up the good work. I periodically visit this site over the years, when I need a Chandler hit.

Anonymous said...

I found your site this morning and printed out your blog to read over my coffee in the cafeteria, before I started work. First rate. I appreciate Chandler very much and am just going back to reread him after a few years away. I'm not an essayist or scholar, just a fan, and I plan to criuse the rest of your site and learn from it. I can understand that it can be disheartening sometimes, but there are still many of us out here who appreciate the work you do, and share your interest. Your efforts are appreciated.

Shamus said...


Glad to see you are back in the Chandler business - sort of.

Your book, "Raymond Chandler, A Literary Reference," inspired me - and gave me some leads as I developed my website devoted to Chandler.

As a native of Los Angeles, and still a resident, I have an advantage over other sites in that I know the town as well as Chandler did. My site is a bit dormant at the moment as I restore two circa 1907 Folmer & Schwing #8 Revolving Back Cycle Graflex Cirkut Cameras, so I can take Panoramas with them matching a 1916 Panorama of the Sennett Studios and a 1923 Panorama of down town Los Angeles I've collected.

In the near future I'll finish two 1080P HD time-lapse videos: The Nevada Gas Ride and The Little Sister Ride, as well as post another 100 or so vintage original images, and more of the 3000 photos I've taken of L.A. I also have to finish an essay on the Thelma Todd case in my true crime section, add a section about the Cirkut Camera, and finally finish a page about Chandler's secretary at Paramount, Dorothy Fisher, who died December last at 87.

I was lucky enough to shoot a number of pictures of Dorothy, scan some pictures of her and Ray, a couple of letters he wrote her, and recorded a 90 minute oral history with her.

I've also been to the LA County recorder's and found the formal (recorded) 1930 legal separation agreement between Cissy & Ray and a couple of deeds for oil property he purchased with his boss at the oil company. I've also found and corrected a number of facts regarding Chandler -- i.e., his mother died in 1923 not 1924, etc.

Most of the material is on line right at this moment.

Of course, I'm not interested in the academic side of things, criticism or symbolism, etc., even though I have two MAs and was in USC's PhD program (dropped out to make a living in 1972).

My site is for those fans who want to know what Los Angeles was like between 1913 and 1946, the years Chandler lived here in the LA area.

In that sense my site has much more depth than any other Chandler site, due to all the original and often rare photos, postcards and maps. My collections represents over $10K spent on eBay over the last four years.

I also have a link on my site to your site. If you feel so inclined, I would appreciate a link on your site to mine:

Keep up the good work.

Loren Latker

Anonymous said...

Hi Robert. I was at a tour of The Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills yesterday and of course it was the scene of the murder/suicide of Ned Doheny and his valet/lover Hugh Pucket in 1929. To this day it remains the only open murder case in the Beverly Hills Police Archive.
I seem to recall reading a letter by Mr. Chandler to a close friend involving the truth behind the cover-up and have sadly lost the data I had on file.
I am writing a book on the fascinating tragedy and wonder if you or any of your blog members could please direct me to this letter?
I read every Chandler book and story while still in Jr. High (middle school now) and he is indeed one of my top literary heros.
Thank you in advance for any aid in this matter.
Sincerely, Dan Wilcox.
Long Beach, CA.