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JAMES HADLEY CHASE

- A   Tribute   by  a   Die - Hard   Fan

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This website is dedicated to perhaps the greatest mystery / thriller writers of the 20th century - Ren Brabazon Lodge Alan Raymond a.k.a. James Hadley Chase. Widely read, hugely admired, sorely criticized, universally published and translated, Chase just cannot  be ignored.  This website has been created by a fan in India, from secondary sources of information and a personal collection of Chase's works. It is an humble tribute to an author, who deserves his own  place in the Net, which was lacking, till the launching of this  exclusive  website on 1st June 2004


List of Literary Works

Characters and Locales 

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Filmography, TV Productions and Plays   

No Orchids for Miss Blandish 
Review of Novels - A Critical Analysis Feedback from Visitors
Useful Links & Interesting Trivia Me, Myself and JHC

My Phantom Comics Page

A Brief Biography: 

    Rene' Raymond, better known by his pseudonym, as James Hadley Chase,  was born on 24th December, 1906, in Ealing, London and was educated at King's School, Rochester, Kent.  He left home when he was about eighteen years of age and worked as a traveling salesman, selling children's encyclopedias. Later, he joined a wholesale book firm. Chase took up full time writing, prior to the Second Word War. During the War, he served with distinction as a Squadron Leader in the RAF. He moved to France in 1956 and over to Switzerland in 1961, living a secluded life in Corseaux-Sur-Vevey north of Lake Geneva.  His work experience in the book trade and the RAF stood him in good stead throughout his  writing career

          Chase's first novel, No Orchids for Miss Blandish, was written in six weekends, during the late summer of 1938. After being rejected by Michael Joseph, it was later published in 1939 by Jarrolds (London). It was an immediate success, and was quickly published in several European countries, as well as South America, Canada, Japan and even Russia. Chase, at that time, had never been to the US. Nevertheless, with the aid of American slang dictionaries and reference books, he wrote this shattering book about the kidnapping of a millionaire's beautiful daughter,  by a mob of depraved killers lead by a Ma Barker- type gang leader. The heiress later commits suicide after being subjected to repeated rape and all sorts of depravities. 

     In 1944, George Orwell defended the book, which was apparently considered fascist and against all the values that England fought for,  in 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". 

     Although Chase lived in Europe, he continued to use the US for his locales in his subsequent novels, and created mythical  locations such as Paradise City and Orchid City, supposedly in Florida, USA. In all, he wrote about 90 novels, a play, some short stories and edited an anthology. For details, click here.  Chase also used London for his locales, for a few novels, most of his characters being based in the US.  It is interesting to observe the differences in language and  mannerisms of Chase's characters, as perceived by him, and even the differences in the plots themselves, when the novels are based in US and UK.  He briefly visited Miami and New Orleans, USA, quite late in his life. 

  In  W.J. West's "The Quest for Graham Greene - A Biography" (St. Martin's Press, 1998), based on a cache of letters written by Chase to Greene, it is revealed that the two shared the same tax consultant and that the two men, along with Charlie Chaplin and Noel Coward, became unwittingly embroiled in a tax evasion and fraud operation scandal with roots in the Hollywood mafia. 

     Widely read all over the world, Chase was frequently criticized  for the  sadistic treatment of  women in his novels. Critics dubbed him as a pulp fiction writer. His novels often had catchy titles and lurid covers,  although there was no particular sexual content or steamy descriptions in his writings per se, as compared to other thriller novelists of his time. Some critics also pointed out his lack of first-hand knowledge of American life and slang, as a result of which, his dialogues appeared dated. In defense,  he was  quoted as saying, "If an author's work sells steadily and well, worldwide, he should not need to waste time giving press interviews, writing introductions or bothering about what critics have to say".   

     Chase was reported to have been heavily influenced by William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, Jonathan Latimer and James M. Cain. Charges of plagiarism, by lifting passages verbatim or almost verbatim from other writers (including Hammett, Chandler and Latimer) dogged him through much of his career. 

In fact,  Chase lived a secluded life, and details of his personal history are not known very well. He was reported to be a amateur photographer, an opera enthusiast and a  modeler of complicated Mecanno models. He died on 6th February 1985, at Corseaux, Switzerland, survived by his wife, Sylvia.  Some other pseudonyms used by him, during his lifetime were: Raymond Marshall, Ambrose Grant and James L. Docherty. 

Tributes: 

     Chase is one of the very rare thriller writers, capable of always replying intelligently to the question, "What happens next?". He must be considered as one of the greatest story tellers of today, if his inventiveness, his feeling for a situation and absolute personal style are taken into consideration - La Revue de Paris                                                                                                  

    The way he builds up a plot, layer upon layer, is so effective  - The Sunday Times

   
  I always enjoy his books... He just keeps me reading
  - George  Macdonald  Fraser

    Chase is a born novelist; under his pen, adventures unfold without a hitch; his characters begin to live.  - Le Monde  

     Has more claim to be literature than many a literary novel... the author is a born narrator.   -Daily Mail

     The thriller maestro of the generation - Manchester Evening News

    
James Hadley Chase is a thriller writer of masterly ingenuity. Several times you think you know what will happen. Well, you don't  - Joseph Taggart

    The king of all thriller writers   - Cape Times

He can write all but a very few of his competitors onto the ground   - Time & Tide

Master of the art of deception - The New Statesman
                       
        

Chase somehow manages to be almost insanely readable - The Observer

If you want entertainment, you could scarcely do better   - The Times

    
He has such a strong, intelligent, highly-tuned thriller talent that he goes drifting past the opposition like Jim Clark,  through a school of commuter cowboys. He takes off smoothly on a theme and is doing the ton before you notice. You may be horrified by his characters, but your sympathy races along with them. He makes no pit-stops, like other writers, but goes on driving at the point of issue; and though you may be sometimes hanging on to your stomach, you never ask him to let you go out.  - Eastern Daily Press       

     The old maestro's magic story-telling never flags - Birmingham Evening Mail

James  Hadley Chase has a clear cut approach to murder. His heroines have curves and know all the angles. His private eye has all the gentle charm of a knuckleduster.  - Evening News

Flawless professionalism ... compulsive readability and sheer hard story-telling - Sheffield Telegraph


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