James Hadley Chase

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
James Hadley Chase
Chase writer.jpg
Born René Lodge Brabazon Raymond
(1906-12-24)24 December 1906
London, England
Died 6 February 1985(1985-02-06) (aged 78)
Switzerland
Pen name James L. Dochery
Raymond Marshall
R. Raymond
Ambrose Grant
Occupation Novelist
Language English
Nationality British
Genre Crime fiction, mystery, thriller, detective
Literary movement Golden Age of Detective Fiction
Spouse Sylvia Ray (1932–1985)
Children 1

Signature The signature of James Hadley Chase, reading "James Hadley Chase"

James Hadley Chase (24 December 1906 – 6 February 1985)[1] was an English writer. While his birth name was René Lodge Brabazon Raymond, he was well known by his various pseudonyms, including James Hadley Chase, James L. Docherty, Raymond Marshall, R. Raymond, and Ambrose Grant. He is one of the best known thriller writers of all time. The canon of Chase, comprising 90 titles, has earned for him a reputation as the king of thriller writers in Europe.[2] He is also one of the internationally best-selling authors, and 50 of his books have been made into films.[3]

Personal background[edit]

René Lodge Brabazon Raymond (James Hadley Chase) was born on 24 December 1906 in London, England. He was the son of Colonel Francis Raymond of the colonial Indian Army, a veterinary surgeon. His father intended his son to have a scientific career and had him educated at King's School, Rochester, Kent.

Chase left home at the age of 18. In 1932, Chase married Sylvia Ray, and they had a son. In 1956, they moved to France. In 1969, they moved to Switzerland, living a secluded life in Corseaux-sur-Vevey, on Lake Geneva. Chase eventually died there on 6 February 1985.

Professional background[edit]

Military services[edit]

During World War II he served in the Royal Air Force, achieving the rank of Squadron Leader. He edited the RAF journal with David Langdon and had several stories from it published after the war in the book Slipstream: A Royal Air Force Anthology.[4]

Writing background[edit]

After Chase left home at the age of 18, he worked in sales, primarily focusing on books and literature. He sold children's encyclopaedias, while also working in a bookshop. He also served as an executive for a book wholesaler, before turning to a writing career that produced more than 90 mystery books. His interests included photography (he was up to professional standard), reading and listening to classical music, being a particularly enthusiastic opera lover. Also, as a form of relaxation between novels, he put together highly complicated and sophisticated Meccano models.

Prohibition and the ensuing Great Depression in the US (1929–39) had given rise to the Chicago gangster culture just prior to World War II. This, combined with Chase's book trade experience, made him realise that there was a big demand for gangster stories. After reading James M. Cain's novel The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934), and having read about the American gangster Ma Barker and her sons, and with the help of maps and a slang dictionary, he wrote No Orchids for Miss Blandish in his spare time, allegedly over a period of six-week-ends (though his papers suggest it took longer.) The book achieved remarkable notoriety and became one of the best-selling books of the decade. It was the subject of a well-known 1944 essay, "Raffles and Miss Blandish" (vide Raffles), by George Orwell. It also became a stage play in London's West End (produced by George Black), was filmed in 1948 and Robert Aldrich did a remake, The Grissom Gang in 1971.

During the war, Raymond edited the RAF's official magazine and from that period comes Chase's unusual short story "The Mirror in Room 22", in which he tried his hand outside the crime genre. It was set in an old house, occupied by officers of a squadron. The owner of the house had committed suicide in his bedroom, and the last two occupants of the room had been found with a razor in their hands and their throats cut. The Wing Commander tells that when he started to shave before the mirror, he found another face in it. The apparition drew the razor across his throat. The Wing Commander says, "I use a safety razor, otherwise, I might have met with a serious accident – especially if I had been using an old-fashioned cut-throat." The story was published under the author's real name, Rene Raymond, in the anthology of RAF writings Slipstream in 1946.

During World War II, Chase became friendly with Merrill Panitt (subsequently editor of TV Guide), who provided him with a dictionary of American slang, detailed maps and reference books of the American underworld. This gave Chase the background for his early books with American settings, a number of which were based on actual events occurring there. Chase never lived in the United States though he did make two brief visits, one to Miami and the other en route to Mexico.

Chase was subject to several court cases during his career. In 1942, his novel Miss Callaghan Comes to Grief (1941), a lurid account of the white slave trade, was banned by the British authorities after the author and publishers Jarrolds were found guilty of causing the publication of an obscene book. Each was fined £100. In the court case, Chase was supported by distinguished literary figures such as H. E. Bates and John Betjeman. Later, the Anglo-American crime author, Raymond Chandler, successfully claimed that Chase had lifted a section of his work in "Blonde's Requiem" (published 1945) forcing Chase to issue an apology in The Bookseller.

By the end of World War II, eleven Chase titles had been published and he decided to adopt a different writing approach. All of his books to date had been compared to each other, and he wanted to move away from the American gangster scene to the London underworld that had sprung up following the end of German hostilities. He wrote More Deadly Than the Male under a new pseudonym, Ambrose Grant, and it was published in 1947 by Eyre and Spottiswoode, Graham Greene's publisher at that time. Alerted to Grant's new book, Greene gave it high praise as did the critics who, at the time, had no idea that Chase was the author. Contrary to rumour, the two authors did not know each other at the time, though they then became friends for the remainder of their lives, as Chase's papers and letters reveal. In the early 1960s, both men were caught up in an investment scandal involving Tom Roe which was to lead to Greene's tax exile beginning in 1966.

In one of the chapters of The Wary Transgressor (1952) Chase gave a powerful portrayal of a fanatical General and this part of the book was lifted by Hans Hellmut Kirst in perhaps his most famous novel The Night of the Generals (which later became a popular film starring Peter O'Toole in the title role). Chase (who had nothing whatsoever to do with the making of the film) threatened a lawsuit, and Kirst subsequently acknowledged Chase's original idea in his book, as did Columbia Pictures, who included a credit that the plot of the film stemmed from an original Chase idea.

The first cut of Joseph Losey's 1962 film version of Chase's thriller Eve (1945), Eva was considered too long, at 155 minutes, and the producers, the Hakim Brothers, insisted it not only be withdrawn from the Venice Film Festival, but be severely cut. When the film finally opened in Paris at 116 minutes, it was described as the most traumatic disaster of Losey's career.[5] The original book was a psychological study of a prostitute (Chase, with his wife's blessing, picked out a "lady of the night" and offered her £5 and a good lunch if she would let him pick her brains). Set in America, the film version was moved to Venice and starred Stanley Baker as a Welsh writer obsessed with a cold-hearted femme fatale, Eve (Jeanne Moreau). "Do you know how much this week-end's going to cost me?" he asks Eve. "Two friends, thirty thousand dollars... and a wife." Eve replies: "That's something my husband would never do – discuss money."

All of his novels were so fast-paced that the reader was compelled to turn the pages in a non-stop effort to reach the end of the book. The final page often produced a totally unexpected plot twist that would invariably leave even his most die-hard fans surprised. His early books contained some violence that matched the era in which they were written, though this was considerably toned down as plots centred more on circumstantial situations to create the high degree of tension that was the hallmark of his writing. Sex was never explicit and, though often hinted at, seldom happened.

In several of Chase's stories, the protagonist tries to get rich by committing a crime — an insurance fraud or a theft. But the scheme invariably fails and leads to a murder and finally to a cul-de-sac, in which the hero realises that he never had a chance to keep out of trouble. Women are often beautiful, clever, and treacherous; they kill unhesitatingly if they have to cover a crime. His plots typically centre around dysfunctional families, and the final denouement echoes the title.

In many of his novels, treacherous women play a significant role. The protagonist falls in love with one and is prepared to kill someone at her behest. Only when he has killed, does he realise that the woman was manipulating him for her own ends.

Chase's best market was France (more than 30 books were made into movies) where all of his ninety titles were published by Éditions Gallimard in their Série noire series. He was also very popular in other European markets, as well as Africa and Asia. Following perestroika, Centrepolygraph in Russia contracted to publish all his titles. However, his books failed to take hold in the American market partially due to the fact that the descriptive details did not seem convincing to American readers. This, together with their misogynist attitude, turned off the female market.

Trivia[edit]

The 1972 Japanese translation of Chase's 1968 novel Believed Violent was published under the title Sono otoko, kyobo ni tsuki (「 その男、凶暴につき」), meaning "Because of his extreme violence, this man [should not be approached]". This was later used as the title of Takeshi Kitano's first film as director, generally known in English as Violent Cop.

Published works[edit]

James Hadley Chase[edit]

Year
published
Title Central character(s)
1939 No Orchids for Miss Blandish
also The Villain and the Virgin
Dave Fenner
Slim Grisson
1941 The Dead Stay Dumb Dillon
1941 Twelve Chinks and a Woman
also Twelve Chinamen and a Woman
also The Doll's Bad News
Dave Fenner
Glorie Leadler
1941 Miss Callaghan Comes to Grief Jay Ellinger
Raven
1942 Get a Load of This (short story collection)
1944 Miss Shumway Waves a Wand Ross Millan
Myra Shumway
1945 Eve Clive Thurston
Eve
1946 I'll Get You for This Chester Cain
1947 Last Page (play)
1948 The Flesh of the Orchid Carol Blandish
The Sullivan Brothers
1949 You Never Know with Women Floyd Jackson
1949 You're Lonely When You're Dead Vic Malloy
Paula Bensinger
Jack Kerman
1950 Figure It Out for Yourself
also The Marijuana Mob
Vic Malloy
Paula Bensinger
Jack Kerman
1950 Lay Her Among the Lillies Vic Malloy
Paula Bensinger
Jack Kerman
1951 Strictly for Cash Johnny Farrar
1952 The Fast Buck Verne Baird
Rico
1952 Double Shuffle Steve Harmas
1953 I'll Bury My Dead Nick English
1953 This Way for a Shroud Paul Conard
Vito Ferrari
1954 Tiger By the Tail Ken Holland
1954 Safer Dead Chet Sladen
1955 You've Got It Coming Harry Griffin
1956 There's Always A Price Tag Glyn Nash, Steve Harmas
1957 The Guilty Are Afraid Lew Brandon
1958 Not Safe to Be Free
also The Case of the Strangled Starlet
Jay Delaney
1959 Shock Treatment Steve Harmas, Terry Regan
1959 The World in My Pocket Morgan
1960 What's Better Than Money Jefferson Halliday
1960 Come Easy – Go Easy Chet Carson
1961 A Lotus for Miss Quon Steve Jaffe
1961 Just Another Sucker Harry Barber, John Renick
1962 I Would Rather Stay Poor Dave Calvin
1962 A Coffin from Hong Kong Nelson Ryan
1963 One Bright Summer Morning
1963 Tell It to the Birds Steve Harmas, John Anson
1964 The Soft Centre Frank Terrell
Valiere Burnette
1965 This Is for Real Mark Girland
1965 The Way the Cookie Crumbles Frank Terrell
1966 You Have Yourself a Deal Mark Girland
1966 Cade Val Cade
1967 Have This One on Me Mark Girland
1967 Well Now – My Pretty Frank Terrell
1968 An Ear to the Ground Steve Harmas, Al Barney
1968 Believed Violent Frank Terrell, Jay Delaney
1969 The Whiff of Money Mark Girland
1969 The Vulture Is a Patient Bird Max Kahlenberg
1970 Like a Hole in the Head Jay Benson
1970 There's a Hippie on the Highway Frank Terrell, Harry Mitchell
1971 Want to Stay Alive? Poke Toholo
1971 An Ace Up My Sleeve Helga Rolfe
1972 Just a Matter of Time Chris Patterson
Sheila Oldhill
Miss Morely-Johnson
1972 You're Dead Without Money Al Barney
1973 Have a Change of Scene Larry Carr
1973 Knock, Knock! Who's There? Johnny Bianda
1974 So What Happens To Me? Jack Crane
1974 Goldfish Have No Hiding Place Steve Manson
1975 Believe This – You'll Believe Anything Clay Burden
1975 The Joker in the Pack Helga Rolfe
1976 Do Me a Favour, Drop Dead Keith Devery
1977 My Laugh Comes Last Larry Lucas
1977 I Hold the Four Aces Helga Rolfe
1978 Consider Yourself Dead Mike Frost
1979 You Must Be Kidding Ken Brandon
Tom Lepski
Paradise City Police Force
1979 A Can of Worms Bart Anderson
1980 You Can Say That Again Jerry Stevens
1980 Try This One for Size Paradise City Police Force
1981 Hand Me a Fig Leaf Dirk Wallace
1982 Have a Nice Night
1982 We'll Share a Double Funeral Perry Weston
Chet Logan
1983 Not My Thing Ernie Kling
1984 Hit Them Where It Hurts Dirk Wallace

James L. Docherty[edit]

Year
published
Title Central character(s)
1941 He Wont Need It Now Frank Storer

Raymond Marshall[edit]

Year
published
Title Central character(s)
1940 Lady, Here's Your Wreath Nick Mason
1944 Just The Way It Is Harry Duke
1945 Blonde's Requiem Mack Spewack
1947 Make The Corpse Walk Rollo
1947 No Business of Mine Steve Harmas
1948 Trusted Like the Fox
also Ruthless
Edwin Cushman
Grace Clark
Richard Crane
1949 The Paw in the Bottle Julie Holland
Harry Gleb
1950 Mallory Martin Corridon
1951 But A Short Time To Live
also The Pick-up
Harry Ricks
Clair Dolan
1951 Why Pick on Me? Martin Corridon
1951 In A Vain Shadow Frank Mitchell
1952 The Wary Transgressor David Chisholm
1953 The Things Men Do Harry Collins
1954 The Sucker Punch Chad Winters
1954 Mission To Venice Don Micklem
1955 Mission To Siena Don Micklem
1956 You Find Him, I'll Fix Him Ed Dawson
1958 Hit And Run Chester Scott

R. Raymond[edit]

Year
published
Title
1946 Slipstream: A Royal Air Force Anthology

Ambrose Grant[edit]

Year
published
Title Central character(s)
1947 More Deadly Than The Male Georgre Fraser

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Obituary Variety 13 February 1985
  2. ^ Frank Northen Magill (1988). Critical survey of mystery and detective fiction. Salem Press. p. 319. ISBN 0-89356-486-9. 
  3. ^ Publishers' Association, Booksellers Association of Great Britain and Ireland (1982). The Bookseller. J. Whitaker. p. 46. 
  4. ^ http://jameshadleychase.free.fr/bio.htm
  5. ^ David Caute, Joseph Losey: A Revenge on Life (1994).

External links[edit]