Raymond Chandler, who along with Dashiell Hammett perfected the American hardboiled detective novel, died a lonely man. Buried at the expense of the county at the Mount Hope Cemetery in San Diego, California, he was widowed, childless, and isolated at the time of his demise. A mere seventeen people attended his funeral. None of them close. None of them prominent.
Photo courtesy of Empire Of The Image. All Rights Reserved ©2009 Scott Lindgren.
His beloved wife Cissy, to whom he had been married for thirty years, predeceased him by almost five years. Although they'd had their difficulties -- Chandler cheated on her for one thing, and she misrepresented her (much greater) age for another -- they were very much in love and their parting undoubtedly shortened his own life. Months after her death, he tried to kill himself with a revolver (the first shot went wide and the next misfired) and the pace of his already prodigious drinking increased.
For a measure of the depth of Chandler's feelings toward Cissy, one need only read this excerpt from a letter he wrote about her to Leonard Russell, literary editor of the London Sunday Times:
She was the beat of my heart for thirty years. She was the music heard faintly around the edge of the sound. It was my great and now useless regret that I never wrote anything really worth her attention, no book I could dedicate to her. I planned it. I thought of it, but I never wrote it. Perhaps I couldn't have written it.
Chandler had Cissy cremated and the urn that held her remains was placed in storage in Cypress View Mausoleum, not far from Mount Hope. There is every reason to believe Chandler intended for her to be buried with him when he died, but his will did not address the issue, and no one who knew of his wishes was involved in the funeral arrangements. As a result, the urn has sat on a shelf in a storage room at the mausoleum with other unclaimed urns for fifty-six years.
Codicil to Chandler's Will
Enter Chandler aficionado Loren Latker, whose website Shamus Town documents Chandler locations in Los Angeles, including the many houses and apartments in which he and Cissy lived during their peripatetic existence in the 1930s and 40s. (It wasn't uncommon for them shift residences multiple times a year.) With the help of attorney Aissa Wayne (who is the daughter of actor John Wayne), Latker has petitioned the Superior Court of California to move Cissy's cremains from Cypress View to Mount Hope to be buried with Chandler.
Latker has traced Cissy's only living relatives -- her great-great and great-great-great nieces -- and they have given their approval to the plan, but the provisions of the California Health and Safety Code only allow for a spouse or child of the deceased to move remains. Therefore, petitioning the court is the last available option. Latker and Wayne reckon the odds of the court approving the request are low without written documentation of Chandler's wishes, so Latker has set up this page on his website to publicize the case and solicit supporting emails from the public to use in the court hearing.
If you are a Chandler fan and support reuniting Pearl Cecily Eugenia Chandler with Raymond Thorton Chandler for eternity, visit the site and let them know.