The novelist Raymond Chandler was one of America’s greatest mystery writers. His classic stories about Detective Philip Marlowe have been read by millions, and multiple movies have been based on his books. His first novel, 1939’s The Big Sleep, was made into a film starring Humphrey Bogart. He was also a writer for Paramount Pictures, and cowrote the screenplay for James M. Cain’s brilliant novel Double Indemnity. But that all came late in life. In 1932, at forty-four years old, and at the mid-point of the Great Depression, Chandler was fired from his job. He was unemployed, some would say a philandering drunk, and at the end of his rope.
Nonetheless, he and his wife decided to get away from all the failure and try to start over. Driving up the coast of California, Chandler randomly started reading a detective magazine, and the idea occurred to him that he could write stories like that. He began by writing short detective stories in pulp magazines. These didn’t pay well, but they gained him enough credibility to get a small book deal. He published his first novel at age fifty to only moderate success. After writing three more with still no great sales, he talked his publisher into allowing a smaller publisher to reprint his first book in paperback. To the shock of everyone involved, it sold three hundred thousand copies.
Raymond Chandler didn’t discover his one thing until middle age, and yet he became one of the most popular and respected writers in his genre. His influence on subsequent writers and filmmakers has been enormous.
What about you? Order my book “One Big Thing,” because it’s not too late to discover yours!