I've read quite a bit about Chandler and there is a great bio of him on PBS. He was rather reclusive and his wife was apparently bedridden for some long period of time before she died. He was devoted to her. He drank a lot (as did Hammett) seems to go with the territory (writing, that is), but I don't remember anything about him having any correspondence or real relationship with Hammett. They were bound to have known one another, but as to a friendship, I really don't see one anywhere in what I've read or seen about Chandler.
Hammett had a very stormy relationship with Lillian Hellman which devoured a great part of both their private lives.
You're right about drinking seeming to go with the territory. Off hand I can't think of one writer who was not a heavy drinker. Chandler, Hammett, Woolrich, Faulkner,Hemingway,Fitzgerald,London, the list goes on and on.
You can add Mailer and Vonnegut to that list as well. J.D. Salinger said once he stopped drinking and started getting his life on track, he found he could not longer write. Quess it takes tremendous angst in one's life to make them truly a genius.
There is story told by John Houseman, the producer of The Blue Dahlia, about Raymond Chandler and his drinking.
During the final days of shooting The Blue Dahlia Chandler came to him in a state of extreme agitation. He explained that he had reached a complete block in the writing of the script, then he made the following astonishing suggestion. He said that the only way he could finish, was to stay home, get drunk (he had been dry for some time) and to stay drunk until the script was finished.
He explained to Houseman that the danger was not in the drinking, he had done it before and could handle it, but in the return to normal life afterwards. The studio was desperate so they accepted. For eight days Chandler ate no solid food. A doctor visited him twice a day to give him glucose injections. The studio would pick up the work and take it back to the set. Apparently Chandler was never incoherent, he would drink just enough to reach the right state of relaxation, he would write then fall into a light sleep, wake up and continue the cycle.
The script was finished but I could hardly call it the ideal way to work.
Definitely not! I tried it once, and the resulting mess was so illegible I have yet to attempt to type it. I sympathise completely for the foor fellow!
But it was Chandler's idea, and he did get the script finished in time for it to be filmed before Alan Ladd was drafted, and it was a good script...
Then the fellow certainly earns my respect.
Houseman's story, re-told by Mr. Matthews, strikingly resembles my own experience. I've been writing professionally for 25+ years. Radio plays, speeches for local politicians, essays, short fiction, editorials for clients, REAMS of commercial continuity and other stuff. During the first twelve years or so of my career, the most successful work was written while smoking pot. That period was followed by twelve years of moderate to heavy drinking (no pot) and a body of work that my peers seemed to consider my best yet. I have to agree with their assessment because after I became fearful for my health and sobered up, I looked back at the work. There is quite a bit I'm proud of.
But here's the odd thing: during the 365+ days I was clean and sober, I found it damned difficult to write. And what little I wrote was wasted ink.
About two months ago I began to allow myself the luxury of a few malt liquors per writing session. Since then, I have come a long way in writng a murder mystery for the stage. The murder is fully orchestrated, all the clues and alibis are in place, red herrings have been fairly distributed, and a great deal of research into settings and circumstances of a murder case which could have occurred in 1947 has been catalogued. A very long first act has been scripted and already partially revised and the shorter second and third acts should be completed by the end of the year.
I do not care to do a Dylan Thomas thing, but I have found that for me at least, a moderate amount of alcohol does lubricate the creative gears. I find that fact to be disturbing. I do not recommend this practice to others, I merely submit my story in regard to the previous discussion.
Just one more thing: For me, the project I am working on is uncharted territory. Does anyone know of any Chandler works that have been adapted for the stage? If so, any idea of where or how to find a script? If not Chandler, another writer of hard-boiled detective stories? Any help would be most gratefully apreciated. Thanks!