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Even writers need money. It helps, after all, if one wants to keep the coffee pot full and the Wi-Fi humming along. There are writers who can work full jobs and still create masterpieces (Graham Greene and T.S. Eliot come to mind.) But then there are some who need to get kicked out of the world of the gainfully employed before they can really put their nose down and start knocking out pages.

Take Raymond Chandler (1888–1959), whose birthday was last week. According to The Raymond Chandler Papers, the creator of Philip Marlowe was first a shop clerk, tennis racket-stringer (?) and accountant before going off to fight in France in 1917 (volunteering with a Canadian regiment), returning to America and working his way up in the California oil business before getting sacked in 1932.

Chandler stopped drinking, moved with his wife into a cheap place in Santa Monica (still possible back then) and started submitting stories to crime magazines. His first and possibly best novel, The Big Sleep, was published in 1939. That same year, in a letter to Alfred Knopf, Chandler groused about the reactions by some to the depraved nature of his criminal characters. His explanation?

My fiction was learned in a rough school.

All the better.

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