Born in 1888, Raymond Chandler was, along with Dashiell Hammett, hugely influential in the creation of the modern American detective novel. Gritty, luxurious, mid-century Los Angeles is the setting for his seven Philip Marlowe mysteries, most notably The Big Sleep & Farewell, My Lovely. He also wrote screenplays for highly successful adaptations of James M. Cain's Double Indemnity and Patricia Highsmith's Strangers on a Train.
Marlowe, of course, is at the center of Chandler's greatest works, a cynical but determined knight-errant who's smart without being pretentious, honorable but flexible, tough yet vulnerable. Chandler envisioned his detective as a tragic figure: "Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid...He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man." In films the character was tackled by actors ranging from Humphrey Bogart and Robert Mitchum to Dick Powell, James Garner, and Elliot Gould.
For reviews, biographical information, literary criticism, and audio transcripts for Raymond Chandler, check out the Literature Resource Center (DPL card required). The Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler offers many of his reflections on the craft of writing,
A great 3-part 1988 documentary shows lots of footage and history of Chandler's 1930's Los Angeles: