Great Yet Affordable Writers: Raymond Chandler

Great Yet Affordable Writers: Raymond Chandler

He Didn't Stay Affordable Forever!

These are the words of Raymond Chandler, describing what made him decide to seek work as an affordable writer after losing his job in the oil industry during the Great Depression:

“Wandering up and down the Pacific Coast in an automobile I began to read pulp magazines, because they were cheap enough to throw away and because I never had at any time any taste for the kind of thing which is known as women's magazines. This was in the great days of the Black Mask (if I may call them great days) and it struck me that some of the writing was pretty forceful and honest, even though it had its crude aspect. I decided that this might be a good way to try to learn to write fiction and get paid a small amount of money at the same time. I spent five months over an 18,000 word novelette and sold it for $180. After that I never looked back, although I had a good many uneasy periods looking forward.”


A hundred and eighty dollars back then is about equivalent to ten times as much now, but even so, eighteen hundred dollars is not a lot of money for five months worth of work! Raymond Chandler's writing career may have been a little too affordable at the start. He did go on on to bigger and better things, though. His Philip Marlowe detective mysteries are now considered (along with Hammett's Sam Spade stories) to be the defining tales of the hardboiled noir private eye, and only one of Chandler's novels has yet to be made into a movie.


Some of those movies (especially “The Big Sleep” starring Humphrey Bogart) are among the most enduring and successful of the film noir genre, and Chandler even went on to write for Hollywood himself. I'm sure his services became a little less “affordable” in the process- in fact, he could be downright cranky. He flat-out refused to finish writing the screenplay for “The Blue Dahlia” unless the director let him work on it while drunk!


But Chandler's eventual success illustrates an important point- just because you start out as an affordable writer, that doesn't mean that's all you'll ever be or the highest you'll ever rise. You could be writing for a content farm today, and creating the next Great American Novel tomorrow. You never know!