Born in Chicago in 1888, Raymond Chandler spent his teenage years in England, France and Germany, and worked for a number of newspapers as a reporter, essayist and book-reviewer. He returned to America in 1912 and settled in California. After fighting in the Canadian Army during the First World War, Chandler went into business and ended up working as a top executive for an oil company.
With the onset of the Great Depression, however, he started writing full-time, producing stories for popular pulp magazines such as Black Mask. Chandler published his first novel, The Big Sleep, in 1939. It was an instant success and re-introduced a character who would become one of the most famous fictional detectives ever - Philip Marlowe, who had already made his first appearance on the pages of Black Mask. Never a fast writer, Chandler went on to write seven more novels featuring Marlowe during the next two decades.
Towards the end of his years Chandler became increasingly depressed after the death of his wife - he survived a highly publicized suicide attempt two months after his wife died. Going into a slow decline, Chandler took up heavy drinking, and finally in 1959, at the age of 70, died of pneumonia, apparently brought on by a particularly heavy drinking binge. He only completed a single novel, Playback, after his wife's death - his final novel, Poodle Springs, was finished by Robert B. Parker.