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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid biography of a brilliant but flawed author
Raymond Chandler is most famous for his "hard-boiled" crime novels set in Los Angeles in the mid-20th Century. Whether he was comfortable with this legacy is a frequent topic covered in Tom Williams' new biography.
Williams paints a vivid and human portrait of an incredibly skilled artist who comes across at times as a painfully flawed individual. Linking Chandler's...
Published on 20 July 2012 by Mapp08

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3.0 out of 5 stars writing the big sleep
Short, perceptive, interesting. This left me wanting more. It is an essay not a book but worth reading none the less.
Published 10 months ago by R. K. Howard


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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid biography of a brilliant but flawed author, 20 July 2012
This review is from: Raymond Chandler: A Mysterious Something in the Light: A Life (Hardcover)
Raymond Chandler is most famous for his "hard-boiled" crime novels set in Los Angeles in the mid-20th Century. Whether he was comfortable with this legacy is a frequent topic covered in Tom Williams' new biography.
Williams paints a vivid and human portrait of an incredibly skilled artist who comes across at times as a painfully flawed individual. Linking Chandler's life and works to his familial upbringing, Williams shows how witnessing domestic violence led Chandler down the path to creating the detective Philip Marlowe, a knight-like figure in a corrupt world. He makes a bold claim, which he backs up with convincing evidence, that Chandler's writings were directly influenced by his alcoholic father.
It is clear that Williams is a fan of Chandler and the analysis of Chandler's use of language is a joy to read. He may share Chandler's regret that he was restricted to crime fiction writing, but it is obvious that Williams regards Chandler's output as much more than mere crime fiction and places it amongst the best literature of the 20th Century. Williams is succesful in showing why this should be the case, and his enthusiasm aids this approach.
However, Williams always remains objective in his description of Chandler as a man and never shys from pointing out Chandler's at times rude behaviour, nor the destructive alcoholism that affected Raymond Chandler's own life and marriage.
The writing is sharp and to the point and, by quoting from Chandler's own letters, Williams brings to life this complex and intriguing man.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Raymond Chandler: A Mysterious Something in the Light - Tom Williams, 10 Mar. 2015
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Tom Williams has written an engaging well constructed biography of one of the leading lights of the genre of “American hardboiled crime fiction.” This book is equally as interesting as any novels or short stories by Raymond Chandler, Tom Williams’s subject matter for biography. The book is well written keenly illustrating how the art of Raymond Chandler was shaped, in his diverse life as an author, and how the myriad of experiences forged his character Marlowe – which of course is an amalgam of the life lived by Raymond Chandler both in Great Britain (of the early twentieth century) and The United States of America in particular California which is another presence in the novels of Raymond Chandler. Tom Williams is able to illustrate how as a Hollywood Screen Writer he was in fact strangled by the studio system which tried to make him just a common day labourer instead of an artist creating original thoughts.Tom Williams also shows in his biography Chandler’s struggle with the demon of drinking. This book cleverly illustrates how a brilliant writer struggles to evolve and give birth to his art. If like me you are interested in classic “American hardboiled crime fiction,” then this is the book for you. It shows cogently how Raymond Chandler became such a superb writer, and the influences upon his life which ultimately shaped his art. Buy this book and learn more about your favourite crime fiction writer. I thoroughly recommend this book as showing the struggles to achieve art which transcends human reality.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A definitive and compelling biography of Raymond Chandler, 17 Dec. 2012
This review is from: Raymond Chandler: A Mysterious Something in the Light: A Life (Hardcover)
This biography covers ground already ploughed by others. The first goal of the book must be to make the case for another biography. This Williams achieves with ease and with much to spare. Chandler of course is a facinating figure and a writer of real importance. Existing known material is presented with a fresh eye, keen insight and balanced evaluation. And there has been additional rigorous research, which learning the author wears very lightly. The book is beautifully written and presented. It is a compelling read and as such is worthy of its distinguished subject. This must surely become the definitive Raymond Chandler biography for many years to come. My only cavil was in the illustrations. A number of the pictures are very familiar from earlier works. There are few new finds here and very few photgraphs altogether. Surely there must be more material on Chandler and his circle? However this is a very small reservation. The book is a triumph. It will delight Chandler fans and inspire others to become better acquainted with the classic detective stories and crisp screenplays of this influential writer.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant life of a complex man, 13 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Raymond Chandler: A Mysterious Something in the Light: A Life (Hardcover)
I was so engrossed by this book that I suffered the pain of reading a heavy hardback on the bus. Everything you wanted to know about Raymond Chandler, including a lot about his early life I was ignorant of. Fascinating that he churned out godawful poetry because it was what pre-WWI readers wanted. (Full of archaisms, knights, maidens, orients, morns, you get the picture.) But it showed how he could pick up a genre with skill, something he did when, sacked from his office manager job, he looked for a kind of writing that would pay. He even went to short-story writing evening classes. Chandler the novelist wasn't born fully-formed - he grew out of a hack journalist, a soldier, a man with a regular job, a cat, and a wife (18 years older than himself). It is sad to read of his decline after her death. Williams' style is plain and very readable. I only have one criticism - why was this book published without being proof-read? And I don't mean it has an erratum on page 76 - there are more than a few howlers.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly absorbing, 31 July 2012
This review is from: Raymond Chandler: A Mysterious Something in the Light: A Life (Hardcover)
I previously had little interest in Raymond Chandler but was persuaded to buy a copy of this biography having read a glowing review in the Sunday Times. I was not disappointed - the book is thoroughly engrossing from the opening paragraphs. Williams' writing style is particuarly attractive and full of prose that really brings Chandler to life and gives him the coverage which I now appreciate he deserves. I was also surprised to see that this is Williams' first book, the maturity of the writing does not give rise to any suggestion of that being the case. I look forward to his future works and will certainly be reading more Raymond Chandler as a result of this biography.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars diligent and dogged?, 19 Aug. 2012
By 
gabriel mendoza (North by NorthEast) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Raymond Chandler: A Mysterious Something in the Light: A Life (Hardcover)
I read a review of this biography in a leading newspaper yesterday. It was described, after a precis of the reviewer's own opinions about Chandler, as 'diligent and dogged'. Diligent maybe, but 'dogged' suggests an earnest, serious or possibly boring approach.
This it is not. The style is lively, informative and enthusiastic. Chandler comes to life in the way Marlowe does in the books.
This book stands on its own. You need not be a Chandler fan to enjoy it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting biography of a man as interesting if not ..., 30 Dec. 2014
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R. J. Brady "madandbad" (wallington, surrey United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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An interesting biography of a man as interesting if not more, than his alter ego Marlowe. This is a first rate look and analysis of both the man as a writer and his fractured personality. The author has done his homework and gives the reader a more" fleshed out"
rendition of this troubled and lonely man.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Bio on a Great Author, 30 July 2012
This review is from: Raymond Chandler: A Mysterious Something in the Light: A Life (Hardcover)
I've never read a biography before but was a huge fan of Raymond Chandler and all his books so when I was recommended this by a friend I thought I'd give it a go. Being my first foray into the world of non-fiction I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the book and I'll definitely try a few other bios in future.

Williams has an engaging writing style and the bio itself is thoroighly researched and compelling. Highly recommended!
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3.0 out of 5 stars writing the big sleep, 15 Aug. 2014
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Short, perceptive, interesting. This left me wanting more. It is an essay not a book but worth reading none the less.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rich and Insightful Bio of Chandler, 29 July 2012
By 
L. Pearson - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Raymond Chandler: A Mysterious Something in the Light: A Life (Hardcover)
As a huge fan of Raymond Chandler I have read a number of his previous biographies and was thus very excited to see what Tom Williams had to offer in his debut: A Mysterious Something in the Light. It is a brilliantly written bio, thoughtfully constructed and much richer than any of its predecessors. Full of new insights into Chandler's life, it's a must read for any fans of Chandler, or indeed American Literature.
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