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Raymond Chandler’s Pearl

June 14, 2010

Over on his blog Tom Williams, who is working on a new biography of Raymond Chandler, has an interesting piece about the early story ‘Pearls are a Nuisance’ in which he makes the intriguing suggestion that the story might include a private joke between Ray and his wife Cissy, whose first name was ‘Pearl’:

‘Pearls Are A Nuisance’ is one of Chandler’s more unusual stories. It appeared in the Dime Detective in 1939 and is narrated by a heavy drinking, 6ft something Anglicized American by the name of Walter Gage who talks ‘the way Jane Austen writes’ despite his size and muscles (he played football in college we are told by his adoring girlfriend, Ellen). When Ellen asks him to track down some stolen pearls without the owner (her employer) knowing Gage is lead to a similarly sized thug  and former chauffeur called Henry Eichelberger and, together, to two set out to find the pearls. The story  has all the hallmarks of a typical Chandler tale: betrayal, a corrupt but wealthy woman, a beautiful girl. But it sticks out from some of his other stories for several reasons. Firstly there is something of Ray in Walter Gage.

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