Raymond Chandler was educated in England and knocked around a variety of jobs before he wrote his first story "Blackmailers Don't Shoot" at the age of 45. Six years later he introduced a private detective named Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep, his first novel and still his best known work.
Marlowe bore a strong resemblance to Dashiell Hammett's character Sam Spade, cynical and a bit seedy but with his own code of honor, living on the borderline between glamor and squalor in mid-century Los Angeles. Director Howard Hawks made a classic movie of The Big Sleep in 1946, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Several other Chandler novels and stories were made into movies and he wrote a number of screenplays.
Chandler's adopted city was Los Angeles (though once successful he moved to La Jolla) and he portrayed it vividly, with a mixture of keen observation and carefully calculated invention. Between the pulp fiction stories and the film noir movies a semi-mythical city has been created - Alain Silver writes about it in Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles. Fictional Bay City is based on Santa Monica, Gray Lake is Silver Lake, Idle Valley is the San Fernando Valley, and Poodle Springs is Palm Springs.
Chandler acknowledged Dashiell Hammett as his inspiration and together they created the "hard-boiled" detective tradition that continues to this day. Chandler wrote about it in his essay The Simple Art of Murder, first published in The Atlantic Monthly. In addition to his critique and appreciation of American pulp fiction he ridicules the classic English murder mystery writers as dull and their plots as contrived and unrealistic.
HBO produced Philip Marlowe, Private Eye in 1983 and 1986, an acclaimed series of eleven neo-noir episodes starring Powers Boothe.