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A little-known poem by 'The Big Sleep' author Raymond Chandler is going to print

This 1946 file photo shows mystery novelist and screenwriter Raymond Chandler.
This 1946 file photo shows mystery novelist and screenwriter Raymond Chandler.

Warning: This story contains a mention of attempted suicide.

A literary magazine is printing a previously little-known work by the novelist Raymond Chandler — and it's not a hard-boiled detective story.

Strand Magazine announced that its latest issue will include a poem by Chandler written around 1955 that shows the "softer, sensitive side" of the writer known for his pulp fiction hits such as The Big Sleep.

"He wrote the poem after his wife had passed away and this poem also serves as a love letter to her," Andrew Gulli, managing editor of Strand Magazine, told NPR in an email.

Chandler's wife, Cissy, died in 1954, after which the author grew depressed and attempted suicide one year later.

Gulli said it was the first time Chandler wrote a poem as an adult.

A poem about a lost love, "Requiem" begins with the line, "There is a moment after death when the face is beautiful."

The first two stanzas describe experiences that rekindle memories of the now-dead partner, like the "three long hairs in a brush and a folded kerchief" and "the fresh made bed and the fresh, plump pillows."

But then the speaker notes that there are "always the letters" that he holds in his hand and "will not die."

Those letters will "wait for the stranger to come and read them," who in reading the letters gets to relive the "long, long innocence of love."

It's revealed in the final line of the poem that, in fact, "The stranger will be I."

Gulli said the poem was discovered in a shoebox in the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford.

Chandler died of pneumonia in La Jolla, Calif., in 1959.

Strand Magazine has published little-known or unseen works by the author before, such as Chandler's short satire of corporate culture called Advice to an Employer, which the magazine ran in 2020.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: December 17, 2023 at 10:00 PM MST
An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the poem Chandler wrote as "previously unpublished." It had appeared in a biography of the writer, The Long Embrace by Judith Freeman, but the poem was not widely known.
Joe Hernandez
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
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