Los Angeles may be young for a major world city, yet in certain neighbourhoods there are already several layers of history to be peeled back, and few better ways to do so than via the novels of one of the city’s great writers, Raymond Chandler.
According to Richard Schave and Kim Cooper, of the tour company Esotouric, who every few months lead a bus tour of Chandler’s haunts, the writer of The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye made very little up. Instead, he renamed the places and personalities around him, repurposing them for the adventures of his alter ego, the private detective Philip Marlowe, on what the author called the “mean streets” of a uniquely corrupt US city.
Chandler, an English public schoolboy who emigrated to the US, worked as an oil executive in LA, and played bridge every day at the Los Angeles Athletic Club with the great and the good – and the not-so-good. During the interwar years, when east coast cities were characterised by conflict between the authorities and the underworld, LA ordered itself differently: most organised crime in the city was organised by the authorities themselves.
This corruption seeped into the pages of Chandler’s hardboiled fiction and on to the silver screen in film adaptations of the Marlowe stories.