In 1976 Weidenfeld and Nicholson published facsimiles of excerpts from Raymond Chandler’s notebooks. They make fascinating reading. In them he lists possible titles (‘The Corpse Came in Person’, ‘The Diary of a Loud Check Suit’) and practices similes like ‘As noiseless as a finger in a glove’ or ‘As rare as a fat postman’ , some of which, he notes, were suggested by his wife Cissy. He even sketches out a plan for his writing career.
On Thursday, in the Special Collections Reading Room of the Bodleian in Oxford, I got my hands on the original. It came in a dull grey box which, when you opened it, released the pungent smell of good leather. It is an astonishing to think that this fragrance has stuck to the leather for so long, that it is the same smell that Raymond and Cissy smelt in 1938 when Chandler first started to write in it. Getting my hands on this sort of thing…well thats part of the thrill of writing a biography.