Book Collecting

Raymond Chandler – First Edition Books: Identification Guide

Raymond Chandler
Raymond Chandler

Raymond Thornton Chandler (1888 – 1959) was an American-British novelist and screenwriter. In 1932, at the age of forty-four, Chandler became a detective fiction writer after losing his job as an oil company executive during the Great Depression. His first short story, “Blackmailers Don’t Shoot”, was published in 1933 in Black Mask, a popular pulp magazine. His first novel, The Big Sleep, was published in 1939. In addition to his short stories, Chandler published seven novels during his lifetime (an eighth, in progress at the time of his death, was completed by Robert B. Parker). All but Playback have been made into motion pictures, some more than once. In the year before his death, he was elected president of the Mystery Writers of America.

Chandler had an immense stylistic influence on American popular literature. He is a founder of the hard-boiled school of detective fiction, along with Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain and other Black Mask writers. The protagonist of his novels, Philip Marlowe, like Hammett’s Sam Spade, is considered by some to be synonymous with “private detective”.

Critics and writers, including W. H. Auden, Evelyn Waugh and Ian Fleming, greatly admired Chandler’s prose. Chandler’s swift-moving, hardboiled style was inspired mostly by Dashiell Hammett, but his sharp and lyrical similes are original. Chandler’s writing redefined the private eye fiction genre, led to the coining of the adjective “Chandleresque”, and inevitably became the subject of parody and pastiche. Yet the detective Philip Marlowe is not a stereotypical tough guy, but a complex, sometimes sentimental man with few friends, who attended university, who speaks some Spanish and sometimes admires Mexicans and Blacks, and who is a student of chess and classical music. He is a man who refuses a prospective client’s fee for a job he considers unethical.

At least three of Chandler’s novels have been regarded as masterpieces: Farewell, My Lovely (1940), The Little Sister (1949), and The Long Goodbye (1953). The Long Goodbye was praised in an anthology of American crime stories as “arguably the first book since Hammett’s The Glass Key, published more than twenty years earlier, to qualify as a serious and significant mainstream novel that just happened to possess elements of mystery”. Four of his novels appear on the British-based Crime Writers Association Poll (1990) of the best 100 crime fiction novels ever published.

Raymond Chandler – First Editions Identification Guide

How to Identify First Edition books by Raymond Chandler
YearTitlePublisherFirst edition/Printing Identification Points
1939The Big SleepAlfred A. Knopf, New York, 1939First edition. "First edition" stated on © page. Brownish orange cloth, dark grey blue lttering. Top edge stained dark blue. 5000 copies printed. Dust jacket: Cream, front and spine on blue background. Rear Borzoi Mysteries, six titles. Price $2.00. ALSO: London: Hamish Hamilton. First UK edition. "First published 1939" stated on © page. Black cloth, reddish-orange lettering. Dust jacket: Cream, front and spine on red background. Yellow & white lettering. Rear "Selected Thrillers..." Three titles. Back flap blank.
1940Farewell, My LovelyAlfred A. Knopf, New York , 1940First edition. "First edition" stated on © page. Medium reddish-orange cloth, deep blue lettering. Top edge stained dark blue. 7500 copies printed. Dust jacket: White, front and spine on reddish-brown background. Rear "Borzoi Books", four titles. Price $2.00. ALSO: London: Hamish Hamilton, 1940. First UK edition. "First published in Great Britain 1940" stated on © page. Yellow cloth, red lettering. Dust jacket: Cream, front and spine on red background. Rear "Autumn Fiction" ads, 6 titles. Price 7/6s.
1942The High WindowAlfred A. Knopf, New York, 1942First edition. "First edition" stated on © page. Light grayish-brown cloth, dark purplish-red lettering. 6500 copies printed. Dust jacket: Cream, front and spine on blue backgroud. Rear Chandler photo and message about War Bonds. Price $2.00. ALSO: London: Hamish Hamilton, 1943. First UK edition. Reddish-orange cloth, gold lettering. Dust jacket: Cream, front yellow, spine red background. Rear "Hamish Halmilton" ads, ten titles. Price 8s.
1943The Lady in the LakeAlfred A. Knopf, New York, 1943First edition. "First edition" stated on © page. Medium yellowish-green cloth, dark green lettering. Dust jacket: Cream, front and spine on black background. Rear Chandler's photo and message about War Bonds. Price $2.00. ALSO: London: Hamish Hamilton. First UK edition. "First published in Great Britain 1944" stated on © page. Orange-yellow cloth, reddish-orange lettering. Dust jacket: Cream, front and spine on black background, pink lettering. Rear "Latest fiction" ads, 6 titles. Price 8s/6d.
1944Five MurdersAvon Book Co., New York 1944First edition. Pictorial gray olive-green wrappers, white lettering. Avon Murder Mystery #19. Price $0.25c.
1947Five Sinister CharactersAvon Book Co., New York [1945]First edition. Pictorial wrappers. Avon Murder Mystery #28. Price $0.25c.
1945Finger Man and other StoriesAvon Book Co., New York [1946]First edition. Pictorial wrappers. Avon Murder Mystery #43. Price $0.25c.
1949The Little SisterHamish Hamilton, London, [1949]First edition.The UK edition was published prior to the American edition. Red cloth, gold lettering on spine. "First published in Great Britain, 1949" stated on © page. Dust jacket: Pictorial, white lettering. Rear: reviews for Little Sister. Rear flap: ads for Chandler's books, four titles. Price 8s 6d. ALSO: Houghton Mifflin Co., , 1949. "Copyright 1949, BY, RANDMOND CHANDLER" stated on © page. Reddish orange or yellow cloth. Blue lettering. Dust jacket: Pictorial, white lettering. Rear: Raymond Chandler's photo with excerpt from the book. Price $2.50.
1953The Long Good-byeHamish Hamilton, London, [1953]First edition.The UK edition was published prior to the American edition. Dark red cloth, silver lettering on spine. "First published in Great Britain, 1953" stated on © page. Dust jacket: Pictorial, yellow & white lettering. Rear: ads for three Chandler's books ending with The Littler Sister. Rear flap: ads for Chandler's books, four titles. Price 10s 6d. ALSO: Houghton Mifflin Co., , 1954. "First published 1954" stated on © page. Half blue & green cloth. Black lettering. Dust jacket: Pictorial, yellow & white lettering. Rear: "There a blondes" and excerpt from the book. Price $3.00.
1958PlaybackHamish Hamilton, London, [1958]First edition.The UK edition was published prior to the American edition. Reddish orange cloth, white or yellow lettering on spine. "First published in Great Britain, 1958" stated on © page. Dust jacket: black, orange & white lettering. Rear: photo of Chandler. Rear flap: ads for Chandler's books, seven titles. Price 12s 6d. ALSO: Houghton Mifflin Co., , 1958. "First printing" stated on © page. Orange cloht, brown lettering. Dust jacket: Pictorial, white lettering. Rear: Chandler's bio. Price $3.00.

Raymond Chandler – First Printing Dust Jackets Identification Guide

Gallery of First state Dust Jackets of Raymond Chandler’s works. Only includes the first appearance in book form. Either the UK or US edition and does not include later printings.

Reference:

BOOKSTORE: Rare, Antiquarian, First editions, Illustrated Children's Books

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