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!