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James Hadley Chase
(1906-1985)

James Hadley Chase — pseudonym for René Brabazon Raymond; wrote also as James L. Docherty, Ambrose Grant, Raymond Marshall.

London-born former children's encyclopedia salesman and book wholesaler, who was inspired by the works of hardboiled American crime writers, and wrote NO ORCHIDS FOR MISS BLANDISH (1939). It became a huge success and is still claimed to be one of the bestselling mysteries ever published. Although Chase produced around 40 thrillers and gangster stories set in the United States, he only went there on short visits.

— ‘It cost a lot of money’, Slim said, watching her closely to see if she was listening.

— ‘But money means nothing to me now. I can buy you anything I fancy. I have all the money in the world. Look - what do you think this is?’ He pushed the parcel towards her, but Miss Blandish ignored it. Muttering, Slim put his cold, damp had on her arm and pinched her flesh. She didn’t move. She grimaced and closed her eyes.’ (from No Orchids for Miss Blandish)

James Hadley Chase was born in London as the son of an army officer. He was educated at King's School, Rochester, Kent. He left home at the age of 18 and worked in several jobs before devoting himself entirely to writing. After reading James M. Cain's novel The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934) he decided to try his own hand as a mystery writer. He had read about the American gangster Ma Barker and her sons, and with the help of maps and a slang dictionary, he composed in six weeks No Orchids for Miss Blandish. During World War II he served as a pilot in the RAF, ultimately achieving the rank of Squadron Leader. From this period dates Chase's unusual short story ‘The Mirror in Room 22’, in which he tried his hand outside the crime genre. In 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 have 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 nodded. ‘I use a safety razor’, he said. ‘Otherwise I might have met with a serious accident - especially if I used an old-fashioned cut-throat’. The story was published under the author's real name in the anthology Slipstream in 1946.

Chase published some 80 books. A number of his books, such as I’LL GET YOU FOR THIS (1946) and YOUNG GIRLS BEWARE (1959) were attacked for their violence. Although many of his stories are located in the US, he paid there only two brief visits, one to Miami and one to New Orleans. Most of the author's knowledge of America has been derived from encyclopedias, detailed maps, and slang dictionaries. Chase's series characters include a corrupt ex-commando Brick-Top Corrigan, Vic Malloy, a Californian private eye, a former CIA agent Mark Girland, millionaire playboy Don Miclem, and Helga Rolfe. Vic Malloy appeared in YOU’RE LONELY WHEN YOU’RE DEAD (1949) and FIGURE IT OUT FOR YOURSELF (1950), and Mark Girland in THIS IS FOR REAL (1965) and YOU HAVE YOURSELF A DEAL (1966). Corrigan stories were written under the name Raymond Marshall, among others MALLORY (1950) and WHY PICK ON ME? (1951). Don Miclem had his adventures in European setting in MISSION TO VENICE (1954) and MISSION TO SIENA (1955).

In several Chase's stories the protagonist tries to find his place in the sun by committing a crime - an insurance fraud or a theft. But the scheme fails and leads to a murder and finally to cul-de-sac, in which the hero realizes that he never had a chance to keep out of trouble. Women are often beautiful, clever, and treacherous, who kill unhesitating if they have to cover a crime.

— ‘The jury will love your legs’, Adams said comfortingly. ‘You’ll only get twenty years. You’ll be out of all the misery that's coming when they drop the H-bomb. You don’t know yet, but you’re a lucky girl’.

— Gilda turned and ran. She took five swift steps before she reached the big, curtained window.She didn’t stop. She went through the curtains, through the glass and out of the window.

— Adams heard her thin, wailing scream as she went down into the darkness, and the thud of her body as it struck the sidewalk, sixteen stories below’. (from Tiger by the Tail, 1954)

In THERE's ALWAYS A PRICE TAG (1956) the author turns inside out the old plot, in which a man commits murder and then attempts to make his crime appear to be a suicide. In the story the protagonist attempts to make a suicide appear to be murder in order to lay his hands on the victim's insurance money. But there is no escape in Chase's world: ‘I looked out of the car window at the traffic, the people moving on the sidewalks, the shop windows and the blue of the sky. It seemed to me that it was imperative to store up in my mind the sight of these familiar things. I had a feeling I wouldn’t see them again’.

In TELL IT TO THE BIRDS (1963) Anson, a gambler and an energetic insurance salesman, knows that he has never been able to hold onto money but still thinks of a robbery: ‘This is it, he thought. There is a time when everyman worth a nickle must make up his mind what to do with his life. I’ve put off my decision long enough. I’ll never get anywhere without money. With Meg to help me and with fifty thousand dollars to get me started, I’ll reach up and take the sun out of the sky’.

Chase lived retiring life and details of his personal history are uncertain. Also sadistic treatment of women in a number of his stories got Chase into trouble with critics and the authorities. Feminists could say much about Chase's views about sexual roles, but on the other hand his books do not offer anything new in the discussion: ‘Anson looked searchingly at her. His eyes moved over her body. He thought: you meet a woman and she starts a chemical reaction in you. You think there is no one like her in the world, the something happens, and it is finished. She means less to me now than the used plate after a good meal, and how little can that be?’ (from Tell It to the Birds)

No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1939): Written in six weekends during 1938, the thriller was Chase's first novel. In the story a rich young heiress, Miss Blandish, is kidnapped by a mob of depraved killers. She fells in love with a one of the kidnappers, who lives in awe of his Ma - prefiguring James Gagney's role as Codie in the Raoul Walsh film White Heat (1948). Dave Fenner, the reporter turned private eye and hero of the story, also appeared in TWELVE CHINKS AND A WOMAN (1940). In 1944 George Orwell defended the book, which was considered Fascist and against all the values that England fought for in the World War II. The novel sold half a million copies during the wartime paper shortages, and was read more than any other title by serving members, men and women, of the British armed forces. Orwell wrote, that ‘it is not, as one might expect, the product of an illiterate hack, but a brilliant piece of writing, with hardly a wasted word or a jarring note anywhere.’ In 1942 the play of the book, written by the author and Robert Nesbitt with additional dialogue by Val Guest, toured Britain from 1942 until 1949. The principal players were Robert Newton, Linden Travers, Hartley Power and Mary Clare. In 1961 Chase revised No Orchids, paying particular attention to the dialogue.

Selected works:
  1. NO ORCHIDS FOR MISS BLANDISH, 1939
  2. THE DEAD STAY DUMB, 1939
  3. HE WON'T NEED IT NOW, 1939 (as James L. Docherty)
  4. TWELVE CHINKS AND A WOMAN, 1940
  5. LADY - HERE'S YOUR WREATH, 1940 (as Raymond Marshall)
  6. GET A LOAD OF THIS, 1941
  7. MISS CALLAGHAN COMES TO GRIEF, 1941
  8. MISS SHUMWAY WAVES A WAND, 1944
  9. JUST THE WAY IT IS, 1944 (as Raymond Marshall)
  10. EVE, 1945
  11. I'LL GET YOU FOR THIS, 1946
  12. BLONDE'S REQUIEM, 1946 (as Raymond Marshall)
  13. MAKE THE CORPSE WALK, 1946 (as Raymond Marshall)
  14. ed.: SLIPSTREAM: A ROYAL AIR FORCE ANTHOLOGY, 1946 (as Renй Raymond)
  15. LAST PAGE, 1946 (play)
  16. MORE DEADLY THAN THE MALE, 1946 (as Ambrose Grant)
  17. NO BUSINESS OF MINE, 1947 (as Raymond Marshall)
  18. THE FLESH OF THE ORCHID, 1948
  19. YOU NEVER KNOW WITH WOMEN, 1949
  20. THE FLESH OF THE ORCHID, 1948
  21. TRUSTED LIKE A FOX, 1948 (as Raymond Marshall)
  22. THE PAW IN THE BOTTLE, 1949 (as Raymond Marshall)
  23. YOU'RE LONELY WHEN YOU'RE DEAD, 1949
  24. FIGURE IT OUT FOR YOURSELF, 1950 (THE MARIJUANA MOB)
  25. LAY HER AMONG THE LILIES, 1950 (TOO DANGEROUS TO BE FREE)
  26. MALLORY, 1950 (as Raymond Marshall)
  27. IN A VAIN SHADOW, 1951 (as Raymond Marshall)
  28. BUT A SHORT TIME TO LIVE, 1951 (as Raymond Marshall)
  29. WHY PICK ON ME? (as Raymond Marshall)
  30. STRICTLY FOR CASH, 1951
  31. THE FAST BUCK, 1952
  32. THE DOUBLE SHUFFLE, 1952
  33. THE WARY TRANSGRESSOR, 1952 (as Raymond Marshall)
  34. THE THINGS MEN DO, 1953 (as Raymond Marshall)
  35. THIS WAY FOR A SHROUD, 1953
  36. I'LL BURY MY DEAD, 1953
  37. MISSION TO VENOCE, 1954 (as Raymond Marshall)
  38. THE SUCKER PUNCH, 1954 (as Raymond Marshall)
  39. TIGER BY THE TAIL, 1954
  40. SAFER DEAD, 1954 (DEAD RINGER)
  41. YOU'VE GOT IT COMING, 1955
  42. MISSION TO SIENA, 1955 (as Raymond Marshall)
  43. THE PICKUP, 1955 (as Raymond Marshall)
  44. RUTHLESS, 1955 (as Raymond Marshall)
  45. YOU FIND HIM - I'LL FIX HIM, 1956 (as Raymond Marshall)
  46. THERE'S ALWAYS A PRICE TAG, 1956
  47. THE GUILTY ARE AFRAID, 1957
  48. NEVER TRUST A WOMAN, 1957 (as Raymond Marshall)
  49. HIT AND RUN, 1958 (as Raymond Marshall)
  50. NOT SAFE TO BE FREE, 1958 (THE CASE OF THE STRANGLED STARLET)
  51. SHOCK TREATMENT, 1959 - Shokkikдsittely
  52. THE WORLD IN MY POCKET, 1959
  53. WHAT'S BETTER THAN MONEY, 1960 - Raha on valttia
  54. COME EASY - GO EASY, 1960
  55. JUST ANOTHER SUCKER, 1961
  56. A LOTUS FOR MISS QUON, 1961
  57. I WOULD RATHER STAY POOR, 1962
  58. A COFFIN FROM HONGKONG, 1962
  59. TELL IT TO THE BIRDS, 1963
  60. ON BRIGHT SUMMER MORNING, 1963
  61. THE SOFT CENTRE, 1964
  62. THE WAY THE COOKIE CRUMBLES, 1965
  63. THIS IS FOR REAL, 1967
  64. CADE, 1966
  65. YOU HAVE YOURSELF A DEAL, 1966
  66. WELL NOW, MY PRETTY-, 1967
  67. HAVE THIS ONE ON ME, 1967
  68. AN EAR TO THE GROUND, 1968
  69. BELIEVED VIOLENT, 1968
  70. THE VULTURE IS A PATIENT BIRD, 1969
  71. THE WHIFF OF MONEY, 1969
  72. THERE'S A HIPPIE ON THE HIGHWAY, 1970
  73. LIKE A HOLE IN THE HEAD, 1970
  74. WANT TO STAY ALIVE?, 1971
  75. AN ACE UP MY SLEEVE, 1971
  76. JUST A MATTER OF TIME, 1972
  77. YOU'RE DEAD WITHOUT MONEY, 1972
  78. KNOCK, KNOCK! WHO'S THERE, 1973
  79. HAVE A CHANGE OF SCENE, 1973
  80. THREE OF SPADES, 1974
  81. SO WHAT HAPPENS TO ME?, 1974
  82. GOLDFISH HAVE NO HIDING PLACE, 1974
  83. THE JOKER IN THE PACK, 1975
  84. BELIEVE THIS, YOU'LL BELIEVE ANYTHING, 1975
  85. DO ME A FAVOUR - DROP DEAD, 1976
  86. I HOLD THE FOUR ACES, 1977
  87. MY LAUGH COMES LAST, 1977
  88. MEET MARK GIRLAND, 1977
  89. CONSIDER YOURSELF DEAD, 1978
  90. A CAN OF WORMS, 1979
  91. YOU MUST BE KIDDING, 1979
  92. YOU CAN SAY THAT AGAIN, 1980
  93. TRY THIS ONE FOR SIZE, 1980
  94. HAND ME A FIG-LEAF, 1981
  95. HAVE A NICE NIGHT, 1982
  96. WE'LL SHARE A DOUBLE FUNERAL, 1982
  97. NOT MY THING, 1983
  98. HIT THEM WHERE IT HURTS, 1984
  99. MEET HELGA ROLFE, 1984

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Formatted by: O. Dag
Last modified on: 2015-09-24

[James Hadley Chase]

J. H. Chase on orwell.ru

George Orwell: Raffles and Miss Blandish
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