Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Portrait of a ?genius?

Express Staff Writer

Writer Judith Freeman splits her time between Fairfield, Idaho, and Los Angeles, Calif. Courtesy photo

Acclaimed author Judith Freeman returns to Ketchum to present her latest book, "The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved," at Tthe Community Library on Thursday, Dec. 13, at 6 p.m.

Freeman's works include "Red Water," "The Chinchilla Farm," "Set For Life" and "A Desert of Pure Feeling," as well as a collection of short stories called "Family Attractions." She is part-time resident of Fairfield. Her Freeman's recent non-fiction book on Raymond Chandler is a long-term project, which Freeman she spent 20 years preparing to write.

"I think Raymond Chandler is the most interesting writer that America has ever produced and took the mystery novel and turned it into literature," Freeman said. "Whenever anyone does something unique and new, that is genius."

Chandler was born in England but lived in the U.S.United States for most of his life. where hHe wrote about violence and corruption in Los Angeles, becoming the most original crime novelist of the 20th century.

"He had an unusual marriage to a much older woman and moved over 36 times in and out of Los Angeles," Freeman said. "He was fussy and they were picky people. He was restless, always looking for a new place to inspire him, and the funny thing is, Chandler stayed in the same area."

Freeman tracked down every address and photograph she could find and discovered not only a portrait of a marriage but the way in which Chandler was looking at Los Angeles.

"Los Angeles is constantly changing," Freeman said. "People love to hate Los Angeles but it is a fascinating place."

Freeman's portrait of Chandler's melding of a city and the stories he wrote allowed her to understand a genre of literature, which that she believes is quintessentiitally American. Chandler is rediscovered by every generation, said Freeman, because it is essential to America due to its violence and corruption, which is not a result of violence but greed.

"I looked at his life through his marriage," Freeman said. "He had split his life between England and America with a classic education but ended up in America and loved American English. He was really interested in Americans and yet the poor guy did not have a home or fit in anywhere."

Chandler was the most iconic bachelor in American literature and devoted to his wife and home. Freeman said Chandler gave a lasting identity to "noir" films and detective fiction. Toward the end of Chandler's life, Freeman said that it was not war or the atomic bomb that was frightening but the idealist and the gangster.

Freeman not only constructs Chandler's Los Angeles through his work and marriage but includes 45 photographs interspersed throughout the book of Chandler's various homes and never- seen- before archival images of Los Angeles.

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