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Raymond Chandler’s La Jolla

July 22, 2022 @ 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm

Raymond 3

Chandler, the popular pulp fiction writer who created the legendary gum-shoe detective Phillip Marlowe, set his last novel, Playback, in La Jolla disguised as a sleepy California beach town named Esmerelda. Playback was published in 1958, just a year before Chandler’s death in 1959. He wrote it while living at 6005 Camino de la Costa, his home in La Jolla starting in 1946. This guided tour features readings from Playback as Chandler described La Jolla’s life and culture of the 1950s, setting it as a background as the hard-living gum-shoe Marlowe tackles the investigation of a lascivious moll being blackmailed by another hoodlum. Inevitably the plot leads to a murder in an alley in an old house that readers can identify as the Villa Waldo on Drury Lane behind Girard Avenue. Tour-goers will visit the Villa Waldo site as the murder scene is described by Chandler in the book, enjoy a walk down Girard past some of Chandler’s favorite haunts, some such as The Cove Theater no longer in operation; visit the site of Ellen Browning Scripps home at 700 Prospect St. as the tour guide reads passages from Playback in which Chandler describes the early 20th-century philanthropist as a Miss Hellwig “tough as a mule” who “still gets driven in a 30-year-old Rolls Royce about as noisy as a Swiss watch.” As a writer and resident Chandler often had an ambiguous, love-hate relationship with La Jolla. In a letter to a close friend he once chided it for reflecting the “old caste system at its dirty work again.” In another, he said La Jolla simply had “the intangible air of good breeding.” In Playback he writes: “In Esmerelda what was old was also clean and sometimes quaint. In other small towns what is old is just shabby.” The tour will conclude at La Valencia where the Whaling Bar was one of Chandler’s favorite hang-outs – in Playback it takes on another Spanish-derived name becoming the Hotel Casa del Poniente (casa of the West Wind).


July 22, 2022
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
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La Jolla Historical Society
780 Prospect St
La Jolla, 92037
858-459-5335 ext 6
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