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James Hadley Chase
|Born||René Lodge Brabazon Raymond|
24 December 1906
|Died||6 February 1985 (aged 78)|
|Pen name||James L. Docherty|
|Genre||Crime fiction, mystery, thriller, detective|
|Literary movement||Golden Age of Detective Fiction|
|Spouse||Sylvia Ray (1932–1985)|
James Hadley Chase (24 December 1906 – 6 February 1985) was an English writer. While his birth name was René Lodge Brabazon Raymond, he was well known by his various pseudonyms, including James Hadley Chase, James L. Docherty, Raymond Marshall, R. Raymond, and Ambrose Grant. He was one of the best known thriller writers of all time. The canon of Chase, comprising 90 titles, earned him a reputation as the king of thriller writers in Europe. He was also one of the internationally best-selling authors, and to date 50 of his books have been made into films.
René Lodge Brabazon Raymond (James Hadley Chase) was born on 24 December 1906 in London, England. He was the son of Colonel Francis Raymond of the colonial Indian Army, a veterinary surgeon. His father intended his son to have a scientific career and had him educated at King's School, Rochester, Kent.
Chase left home at the age of 18. In 1932, Chase married Sylvia Ray, and they had a son. In 1956, they moved to France. In 1969, they moved to Switzerland, living a secluded life in Corseaux-sur-Vevey, on Lake Geneva. Chase eventually died there on 6 February 1985.
During World War II he served in the Royal Air Force, achieving the rank of Squadron Leader. He edited the RAF journal with David Langdon and had several stories from it published after the war in the book Slipstream: A Royal Air Force Anthology.
After Chase left home at the age of 18, he worked in sales, primarily focusing on books and literature. He sold children's encyclopaedias, while also working in a bookshop. He also served as an executive for a book wholesaler, before turning to a writing career that produced more than 90 mystery books. His interests included photography (he was up to professional standard), reading and listening to classical music, being a particularly enthusiastic opera lover. Also, as a form of relaxation between novels, he put together highly complicated and sophisticated Meccano models.
Prohibition and the ensuing Great Depression in the US (1929–39) had given rise to the Chicago gangster culture prior to World War II. This, combined with Chase's book trade experience, made him realise that there was a big demand for gangster stories. After reading James M. Cain's novel The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934), and having read about the American gangster Ma Barker and her sons, and with the help of maps and a slang dictionary, he wrote No Orchids for Miss Blandish in his spare time, allegedly over a period of six weekends (though his papers suggest it took longer.) The book achieved remarkable notoriety and became one of the best-selling books of the decade. It was the subject of the 1944 essay "Raffles and Miss Blandish" by George Orwell. Chase and Robert Nesbitt adapted it to a stage play of the same name which ran in London's West End to good reviews. The 1948 film adaptation was widely denounced as salacious due to the film's portrayal of violence and sexuality. Robert Aldrich did a remake, The Grissom Gang, in 1971.
During the war, Raymond edited the RAF's official magazine and from that period comes Chase's short story "The Mirror in Room 22", in which he tried his hand outside the crime genre. It was set in an old house, occupied by officers of a squadron. The owner of the house had committed suicide in his bedroom, and the last two occupants of the room had been found with a razor in their hands and their throats cut. The Wing Commander tells that when he started to shave before the mirror, he found another face in it. The apparition drew the razor across his throat. The Wing Commander says, "I use a safety razor, otherwise, I might have met with a serious accident – especially if I had been using an old-fashioned cut-throat." The story was published under the author's real name, Rene Raymond, in the anthology of RAF writings Slipstream in 1946.
During World War II, Chase became friendly with Merrill Panitt (subsequently editor of TV Guide), who provided him with a dictionary of American slang, detailed maps and reference books of the American underworld. This gave Chase the background for his early books with American settings, a number of which were based on actual events occurring there. Chase never lived in the United States though he did make two brief visits, one to Miami and the other en route to Mexico.
Chase was subject to several court cases during his career. In 1942, his novel Miss Callaghan Comes to Grief (1941), a lurid account of the white slave trade, was banned by the British authorities after the author and publishers Jarrold were found guilty of causing the publication of an obscene book. Each was fined £100. In the court case, Chase was supported by literary figures such as H. E. Bates and John Betjeman. Later, the Anglo-American crime author Raymond Chandler successfully claimed that Chase had lifted a section of his work in Blonde's Requiem (published 1945) forcing Chase to issue an apology in The Bookseller.
By the end of World War II, eleven Chase titles had been published and he decided to adopt a different writing approach. All of his books to date had been compared to each other, and he wanted to move away from the American gangster scene to the London underworld that had sprung up following the end of German hostilities. He wrote More Deadly Than the Male under a new pseudonym, Ambrose Grant, and it was published in 1947 by Eyre and Spottiswoode, Graham Greene's publisher at that time. Alerted to Grant's new book, Greene gave it high praise as did the critics who, at the time, had no idea that Chase was the author. Contrary to rumour, the two authors did not know each other at the time, though they then became friends for the remainder of their lives, as Chase's papers and letters reveal. In the early 1960s, both men were caught up in an investment scandal involving Tom Roe which was to lead to Greene's tax exile beginning in 1966.
In one of the chapters of The Wary Transgressor (1952) Chase gave a portrayal of a fanatical British General that was lifted by Hans Hellmut Kirst in his novel The Night of the Generals (which later became a film starring Peter O'Toole in the title role). Chase (who had nothing whatsoever to do with the making of the film) threatened a lawsuit, and Kirst subsequently acknowledged Chase's original idea in his book, as did Columbia Pictures, who included a credit that the plot of the film stemmed from an original Chase idea.
The first cut of Joseph Losey's 1962 film version of Chase's thriller Eve (1945), Eva was considered too long, at 155 minutes, and the producers, the Hakim Brothers, insisted it not only be withdrawn from the Venice Film Festival, but be severely cut. When the film finally opened in Paris at 116 minutes, it was described as the most traumatic disaster of Losey's career. The original book was a psychological study of a prostitute (Chase, with his wife's blessing, picked out a "lady of the night" and offered her £5 and a good lunch if she would let him pick her brains). Set in America, the film version was moved to Venice and starred Stanley Baker as a Welsh writer obsessed with a cold-hearted femme fatale, Eve (Jeanne Moreau).
All of his novels were so fast-paced that the reader was compelled to turn the pages in a non-stop effort to reach the end of the book. The final page often produced a totally unexpected plot twist that would invariably leave even his most die-hard fans surprised. His early books contained some violence that matched the era in which they were written, though this was considerably toned down as plots centred more on circumstantial situations to create the high degree of tension that was the hallmark of his writing. Sex was never explicit and, though often hinted at, seldom happened.
In several of Chase's stories, the protagonist tries to get rich by committing a crime – an insurance fraud or a theft. But the scheme invariably fails and leads to a murder and finally to a cul-de-sac, in which the hero realises that he never had a chance to keep out of trouble. Women are often beautiful, clever, and treacherous; they kill unhesitatingly if they have to cover a crime. His plots typically centre around dysfunctional families, and the final denouement echoes the title.
In many of his novels, treacherous women play a significant role. The protagonist falls in love with one and is prepared to kill someone at her behest. Only when he has killed, does he realise that the woman was manipulating him for her own ends.
Chase's best market was France (more than 30 books were made into movies) where all of his ninety titles were published by Éditions Gallimard in their Série noire series. He was also very popular in other European markets, as well as Africa and Asia. Following perestroika, Centrepolygraph in Russia contracted to publish all his titles. However, his books failed to take hold in the American market.
This article lacks ISBNs for the books listed in it. (August 2020)
James Hadley Chase
|Title||Central character(s)||Film adaptations|
|1939||No Orchids for Miss Blandish
also The Villain and the Virgin
|No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1948)|
The Grissom Gang (1971)
|1941||The Dead Stay Dumb||Dillon
|1941||Twelve Chinks and a Woman
also Twelve Chinamen and a Woman
also The Doll's Bad News
|1941||Miss Callaghan Comes to Grief||Jay Ellinger
|Méfiez-vous fillettes (1957)|
|1942||Get a Load of This (short story collection)|
|1944||Miss Shumway Waves a Wand||Ross Millan
|Une blonde comme ça (1962)|
Rough Magic (1995)
|1946||I'll Get You for This||Chester Cain||I'll Get You for This (1951)|
|1947||Last Page (play)||The Last Page (1952)|
|1948||The Flesh of the Orchid (novel)||Carol Blandish
The Sullivan Brothers
|La Chair de l'orchidée (1975)|
|1949||You Never Know with Women||Floyd Jackson|
|1949||You're Lonely When You're Dead||Vic Malloy
|1950||Figure It Out for Yourself
also The Marijuana Mob
|1950||Lay Her Among the Lillies||Vic Malloy
|Die Katze im Sack (1965)|
|1951||Strictly for Cash||Johnny Farrar|
|1952||The Fast Buck
also The Soft Touch
|1952||Double Shuffle||Steve Harmas|
|1953||I'll Bury My Dead||Nick English|
|1953||This Way for a Shroud||Paul Conard
|1954||Tiger By the Tail||Ken Holland||The Man in the Raincoat (1957)|
also Dead Ringer
|1955||You've Got It Coming||Harry Griffin|
|1956||There's Always a Price Tag||Glyn Nash, Steve Harmas||Retour de manivelle (1957)|
|1957||The Guilty Are Afraid||Lew Brandon|
|1958||Not Safe to Be Free
also The Case of the Strangled Starlet
|Jay Delaney||Le Démoniaque (1968)|
|1959||Shock Treatment||Steve Harmas, Terry Regan||Ek Nari Do Roop (1973)|
|1959||The World in My Pocket||Morgan||World in My Pocket (1961)|
|1960||What's Better Than Money||Jefferson Halliday|
|1960||Come Easy – Go Easy||Chet Carson||Chair de poule (1963)|
|1961||A Lotus for Miss Quon||Steve Jaffe||Lotus Flowers for Miss Quon (1967)|
|1961||Just Another Sucker||Harry Barber, John Renick||Dans la gueule du loup (1961)|
|1962||I Would Rather Stay Poor||Dave Calvin||The Catamount Killing (1974)|
|1962||A Coffin from Hong Kong||Nelson Ryan||Coffin from Hong Kong (1964)|
|1963||One Bright Summer Morning||Crime on a Summer Morning (1965)|
|1963||Tell It to the Birds||Steve Harmas, John Anson, Maddox|
|1964||The Soft Centre||Frank Terrell
|1965||This Is for Real||Mark Girland|
|1965||The Way the Cookie Crumbles||Frank Terrell||Trop petit mon ami (fr) (1970)|
|1966||You Have Yourself a Deal||Mark Girland||The Blonde from Peking (1968)|
|1967||Have This One on Me||Mark Girland|
|1967||Well Now – My Pretty||Frank Terrell||Casino (Казино) (1992)|
|1968||An Ear to the Ground||Steve Harmas, Al Barney|
|1968||Believed Violent||Frank Terrell, Jay Delaney||Présumé dangereux (1990)|
|1969||The Whiff of Money||Mark Girland|
|1969||The Vulture Is a Patient Bird||Max Kahlenberg||" "Shalimar (1978)"|
|1970||Like a Hole in the Head||Jay Benson||Snayper (Russian, 1992)|
|1970||There's a Hippie on the Highway||Frank Terrell, Harry Mitchell||Bukhta smerti (Russian, 1991)|
|1971||Want to Stay Alive?||Poke Toholo||Le Denier du colt (1990)|
|1971||An Ace Up My Sleeve||Helga Rolfe||Crime and Passion (1976)|
|1972||Just a Matter of Time||Chris Patterson
|Pas folle la guêpe (fr) (1972)|
|1972||You're Dead Without Money||Al Barney|
|1973||Have a Change of Scene||Larry Carr|
|1973||Knock, Knock! Who's There?||Johnny Bianda|
|1974||So What Happens To Me?||Jack Crane|
|1974||Goldfish Have No Hiding Place||Steve Manson|
|1975||Believe This – You'll Believe Anything||Clay Burden|
|1975||The Joker in the Pack||Helga Rolfe|
|1976||Do Me a Favour, Drop Dead||Keith Devery|
|1977||My Laugh Comes Last||Larry Lucas||The Set-Up (1995)|
|1977||I Hold the Four Aces||Helga Rolfe|
|1978||Consider Yourself Dead||Mike Frost|
|1979||You Must Be Kidding||Ken Brandon
Paradise City Police Force
|1979||A Can of Worms||Bart Anderson|
|1980||You Can Say That Again||Jerry Stevens|
|1980||Try This One for Size||Paradise City Police Force||Try This One for Size (1989)|
|1981||Hand Me a Fig Leaf||Dirk Wallace|
|1982||Have a Nice Night||Passez une bonne nuit (1990)|
|1982||We'll Share a Double Funeral||Perry Weston
|1983||Not My Thing||Ernie Kling|
|1984||Hit Them Where It Hurts||Dirk Wallace|
|Title||Central character(s)||Film adaptations|
|1940||Lady, Here's Your Wreath||Nick Mason|
|1944||Just The Way It Is||Harry Duke|
|1945||Blonde's Requiem||Mack Spewack|
|1947||Make The Corpse Walk||Rollo|
|1947||No Business of Mine||Steve Harmas|
|1948||Trusted Like the Fox
|1949||The Paw in the Bottle||Julie Holland
|1951||But a Short Time to Live
also The Pick-up
|A Little Virtuous (1968)|
|1951||Why Pick on Me?||Martin Corridon|
|1951||In A Vain Shadow||Frank Mitchell|
|1952||The Wary Transgressor||David Chisholm|
|1953||The Things Men Do||Harry Collins||Ça n'arrive qu'aux vivants (1959)|
|1954||The Sucker Punch||Chad Winters||Une manche et la belle (1957); Aar Ya Paar (Hindi 1997)|
|1954||Mission To Venice||Don Micklem||Mission to Venice (1964)|
|1955||Mission To Siena||Don Micklem||Waiting Room to the Beyond (1964)|
|1956||You Find Him, I'll Fix Him||Ed Dawson||Les Canailles (1960)|
|1958||Hit And Run||Chester Scott||Délit de fuite (1959) |
- He Wont Need It Now (as James L. Docherty, 1941)
- Slipstream: A Royal Air Force Anthology (as R. Raymond, 1946)
- More Deadly Than the Male (as Ambrose Grant, 1947)
- Obituary Variety 13 February 1985
- Frank Northen Magill (1988). Critical survey of mystery and detective fiction. Salem Press. p. 319. ISBN 0-89356-486-9.
- Publishers' Association, Booksellers Association of Great Britain and Ireland (1982). The Bookseller. J. Whitaker. p. 46.
- Hunter, Jefferson (2010). English Filming, English Writing. Indiana University Press. p. 105. ISBN 9780253004147.
- Raffles and Miss Blandish, review of No Orchids for Miss Blandish by George Orwell
- Kabatchnik, Amnon (2012). Blood on the Stage, 1975-2000: Milestone Plays of Crime, Mystery, and Detection. Scarecrow Press. p. 65. ISBN 9780810883550.
- Phillips, Gene D. (2014). Gangsters and G-Men on Screen: Crime Cinema Then and Now. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 25. ISBN 9781442230767.
- David Caute, Joseph Losey: A Revenge on Life (1994).