The name Raymond Chandler conjures the stories of 1930s and '40s Los Angeles for which the crime novelist was famous — The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely, The Long Goodbye — but little is known about what fueled his talent.
Author Judith Freeman researched Chandler's life before writing in hopes of putting together a more detailed story of his personal life. In The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved (Pantheon, 333 pages, $25.95), Freeman does a great job of documenting Chandler's love affair with Cissy Pascal, his wife of 30 years ...
"Somewhere in the back of my mind the Chandlers continued to exert a force on my imagination," Freeman writes about her obsessiveness toward her subjects. "And I often found myself thinking of them, of their oddly affecting relationship, and their strangely peripatetic lives, Cissy's mysterious allure, Chandler's inconsolable grief at her death, and the strangely enduring bond that had held them together for so many years."
Freeman pressed on with her project despite the fact that there was little documentation on Cissy. (After her death, Chandler destroyed all the correspondence between the couple.)
Freeman's fascination was no doubt fueled in part by the couple's age difference — the twice-divorced Cissy was 18 years older than Chandler. Also, they had no children and they moved more than two dozen times during their life together.
By all accounts it was a perfect match, and it was Cissy's love and encouragement that propelled Chandler from alcoholic accountant to celebrated crime writer. After Cissy's death in 1954, Chandler began drinking heavily again and was dead himself within five years.