the long embrace


“I used to like this town. A long time ago. There were trees along Wilshire Boulevard. Beverly Hills was a country town. Westwood was bare hills and lots offering at eleven hundred dollars and no takers. Hollywood was a bunch of frame houses on the inter-urban line,” Raymond Chandler wrote, in the voice of his detective hero, Philip Marlowe, in 1949. “Los Angeles was just a big dry sunny place with ugly homes and no style, but good-hearted and peaceful. It had the climate they yap about now. People used to sleep out on porches. Little groups who thought they were intellectual used to call it the Athens of America.”

Chandler first came to Los Angeles in 1912, a time so distant in the city’s history as to seem almost unreal. The population had only just climbed above 300,000. L.A. was still shaking from the dynamiting of The Times by the McNamara brothers, and Clarence Darrow was on trial for alleged bribery. William Mulholland’s titanic aqueduct was incomplete and no water had as yet come from the Owens River Valley. Speedy, efficient streetcars connected downtown with the recently incorporated city of Hollywood and the distant beach towns.

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