CityDig: Find Your Way Around Raymond Chandler’s Smoggy, Sultry Los Angeles

This 1987 map investigates the settings of some of the best detective novels in literature
The Raymond Chandler Mystery Map of Los Angeles
The Raymond Chandler Mystery Map of Los Angeles

Aaron Blake Publishers, Illustrator: Alice Klarke, 1987

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“She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight.”—Raymond Chandler, The Little Sister

While there are numerous excellent L.A.-based fiction writers whose novels revolve around Southern California, few can match the great Raymond Chandler in literary impact or memorable dialogue. This pictorial pays homage to the creator of detective Philip Marlowe, and it keeps things simple and deadly, just like Chandler’s prose. The locations depicted are drawn from seven Chandler novels (The Big Sleep, Farewell My Lovely, The High Window, The Lady and the Lake, The Little Sister, The Long Goodbye, and Playback) and centered on five locations (Hollywood, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Mexico, and Lake Arrowhead).

CityHallChandler created ambiance by peppering his stories with geographic detail, and here we see almost 100 places mentioned in his books. Some are familiar: Grauman’s Chinese Theater, Bullocks Wilshire, the Santa Monica Pier, Musso & Frank, City Hall, Union Station, and Bunker Hill. Others are a bit less iconic: Marlowe’s residences in the Broadview Terrace in Hollywood, his office on Cahuenga, and the 5000 block on Franklin. There are also tasty tidbits of L.A. history like the gambling ship off the coast near Santa Monica, the old city jail on Bauchet, the Garden of Allah, Al Levy’s Tavern, and Romanoff’s on Rodeo Drive.

Raymond Chandler was born in Chicago, but after his father deserted his family, Chandler’s Irish immigrant mother took him to England, where he was educated at the Dulwich School. Eventually, the Chandlers returned to America in 1912 and wound up in Los Angeles. Young Raymond took a job as bookkeeper at the Los Angeles Creamery, and when World War I began, he enrolled in the Canadian army and served in combat. After his discharge he spent some time in Canada and San Francisco, before returning to his old job in Los Angeles, where he met his future wife Cissy. In 1922, Chandler became a bookkeeper for the Dabney Oil syndicate. There, he rose to the position of vice president before his drinking and shilly-shallying led to his termination in 1932.

At the ripe old age of 44, Raymond Chandler turned to fiction writing to support his family. He sold his first short story, “Blackmailers Don’t Shoot,” to Black Mask Magazine in 1933 and published his first novel, The Big Sleep, in 1939. Six more novels and a slew of short stories followed. Over the years since Chandler’s death in 1959, his literary status has only grown. Several of his novels, among them The Long Goodbye and The Lady in the Lake, are now considered masterpieces.

Los Angeles Public Library map librarian Glen Creason shares a map from the Central Library’s collection at CityThink each week.