Lot 6
  • 6

Chandler, Raymond

Estimate
15,000 - 25,000 USD
Sold
15,000 USD
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Description

  • ink and paper
Playback. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1958

8vo. Publisher’s reddish orange cloth; spine stamped in white. Original illustrated dust-jacket; folds a little rubbed. In a cloth slipcase.

Literature

Bruccoli A11.1.a

Catalogue Note

A presentation copy of the first edition inscribed to his unrequited love Natasha Spender, a savior to the near suicidal author: “For Natasha / Naturally / with much fondness / Ray / London August 1958.”

Natasha Spender, wife of poet Stephen Spender, was instrumental in bringing Chandler out from the deep depression he felt following the death of his wife Cissy in 1954. Arriving in London the next year, it was at a party given by his publisher Hamish Hamilton that Chandler met Spender, who immediately took the author under her wing, recognizing his mood swings "between exuberance and depression" as the mark of a deeply troubled soul.  Her friendship and social circle lifted Chandler from wanting to die as he once confessed to her and it was at one of the dinner parties she threw in his honor that he met an impressive admirer of his work, Ian Fleming. 

Chandler and Fleming became fast friends and the older author heaped considerable praise on Casino Royale during the dinner at Spender's. He convinced the creator of Bond not to kill off his secret agent after the second Bond novel, but rather to deepen the character much in the vein of Chandler's own Marlowe, with the result that Fleming was able to produce From Russia with Love.  (see Pearson, Life of Ian Fleming pp. 232-238). The two authors would later exchange warmly inscribed copies of their books (see Sotheby's New York, 13 December 2011, lots 133-135 for the Bond novels).

Unfortunately, Chandler's relationship with Natasha had a more unfortunate side. He became hopelessly and pointlessly infatuated with her, imagining a future for the two of them in spite of her being happily married to Stephen. Her kindness and attention to the grieving author (her children would serve him meals in bed) was misinterpreted and fixated on (he would pick her up in a Rolls Royce filled with flowers and champagne). Already poor in health, the sad situation drove him to drink the painful reality away:

"I'll never forget her devotion to me when I needed it most, and she will never know that when I got drunk in London... it wasn't because I wanted to get drunk, but because I knew it was a hopeless situation, and just didn't give a damn what I did, if only I could forget for a little while how hopeless it was." (see McShane The Life of Raymond Chandler pp. 238-244)

The way out for Chandler proved to be a return to California in 1956, where he would shortly pick up the the writing of Playback, his final novel and the one interrupted by Cissy's death and his tumultuous sojourn in London.

An immensely evocative association copy inscribed to one of the women who had the most profound effect on the author's final years.

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