By Rebecca Ford
At the intersection of Hollywood and Cahuenga, an inconspicuous sign tells the world that this is Raymond Chandler Square.
It takes a lot to have enough of an impact on a city that’s littered with celebrities to get a square named after you.
Raymond Chandler was a novelist and screenwriter who not only defined American detective fiction, but turned Hollywood into a living, breathing character in his writing.
The Pacific Security Bank building lies at this intersection, and was most likely the inspiration for the office of Raymond Chandler’s main character, detective Philip Marlowe.
The best way to get a crash-course of Chandler’s life is to hop aboard Esotouric’s 4-hour bus tour.
The tour, which happens about four times per year, takes fans through Chandler’s life, building by building.
It begins in downtown Los Angeles at Clifton’s Cafeteria, where husband-and-wife founders of Esotouric Kim Cooper and Richard Schave greet you with a nametag and a smile.
Schave, whose knowledge on Chandler’s history in Los Angeles is nearly overflowing, gave a quick introduction to the tour group, which numbered around 50 people.
“It is impossible for you to understand how corrupt Los Angeles was,” Schave said, explaining that the Los Angeles during the 1930s and 1940s was a very different place.
Then, hopping aboard the comfortable tour bus, we began our tour through downtown Los Angeles, stopping at Hotel Barclay and the Oviatt building. On the bus, videos are shown from Chandler’s films, and Cooper and Schave read from his novels to give context to the places we visit.
“I don’t believe Raymond Chandler made anything up,” Schave said.
This is what makes the Chandler tour so powerful. Every location was the inspiration for someone or something in his novels, which include The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely, The High Window, The Lady in the Lake, The Little Sister, The Long Goodbye and Playback.
Schave explained that Chandler used to simply wander the streets of downtown and Hollywood, meeting characters along the way who would appear in his novels and screenplays.
The second half of the tour (after a scrumptious complimentary gelato break), focused on Chandler’s screenwriting career, including his adaptation of Double Indemnity and his original screenplay, The Blue Dahlia.
As we drove by the Paramount Studios lot, Schave told us about Chandler’s meeting with producer John Houseman at Lucy’s El Adobe across the street to discuss his original screenplay, The Blue Dahlia.
Then, we dropped by the historic Musso & Frank Grill, where Chandler not only frequented, but put into his novels.
As we headed back downtown, we drove right through Raymond Chandler Square, where Schave pointed out the building that was most likely the inspiration for Chandler’s protagonist’s sixth floor office, right on Hollywood Boulevard.
Cooper and Schave host about one tour each week. While the Chandler tour is only about four times per year, there are numerous other tours to whet the apetite of any Los Angeles history buff, including the very popular Real Black Dahlia tour, which is Cooper’s favorite.
“We just kind of walk in Elizabeth Short’s footsteps and talk about her lifestyle and just how lonely and depressed she was,” Cooper said of the Real Black Dahlia tour. “I think it’s an eye-opener.”
See more at Patch.