Someone asked me what I thought of this article in our hometown paper and when I got done laughing I pulled out Frank MacShane’s “Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler” and “The Life of Raymond Chandler.”
You guessed it.
Then, just for fun, I searched “The Selected Letters of Dashiell Hammett.”
Here’s the pitch: In 1930s Los Angeles, hip, smooth, worldly African American private detective Samuel B. Marlowe helps out the struggling Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett on how to write detective stories.
Never mind that Hammett actually worked as a detective early in his life. Never mind that Chandler made a clinical analysis of Hammett’s work and dissected the writing of Erle Stanley Gardner. Never mind that Chandler had labored for years at the craft of writing and had been published as a poet as early as 1908.
Stripped of pseudo hardboiled writing (so hard to do well, so easy to do badly) and the mad chase for the Chandler/Hammett letters that somehow, mysteriously, gee whiz we can’t find them, but they’re real, trust me, honest, we have:
Louise Ransil — identified by Times writer Daniel Miller as “a former executive with Orion Pictures and New Line Cinema who lived alone in a penthouse with a pet parrot” and by imdb as an assistant to the producer on six episodes of “Cagney & Lacey” and secretary to the producers on “Son-Rise: A Miracle of Love” — has a script to sell.
(Update: A search of Variety’s online archives returns exactly one mention of Louise Ransil, on Dec. 18, 1981.)
It is titled “Marlowe” and it is available online. I got as far as Pages 3-4, in which Samuel B. Marlowe talks a drunk Raymond Chandler off the 15th-story ledge of the Mayfair Hotel.
Bonus points for inaccuracy: The Mayfair Hotel at 7th and Hartford has 13 stories, courtesy of Google Street View.
Los Angeles Times, Sept. 26, 1926: This hotel is of Class A construction, thirteen stories in height.
Eight million stories in this city! And I can’t write any of them! Sometimes I just want to scream, ‘who the hell am I to think I could ever write?!’ and throw the whole bloody manuscript out the window!
My next step is to check with the cemeteries in Gloucester, Mass., to see if MacShane is rolling over in his grave. Then again, it might be a good day for a drive down to Mount Hope Cemetery in San Diego to check for any unusual activity at the Chandler plot.