Last week the Independent ran some brief excerpts from letters Raymond Chandler sent at 69 to Sara Perceval, a 20-year-old fashion designer. While Perceval has always insisted that Chandler invited her to share his London flat only because he wanted to protect her from preying men, the letters reveal a more usual situation. He was a lonely, persistent old horndog:
“Do you really think you could become emotionally involved with a man of my age?
“A little mild flirtation, very mild, flirtation, but nothing more … I am no danger to young ladies who could possibly be my grand-daughters. I have enough young ladies of twice your age, at least two or three very close to me.”
In perhaps the most forceful passage he cajoles: “…be careful. Every girl has her weak moments. Save yours for me. I know how to treat you with respect and tenderness and only you could ever decide that I could go as far as I should like to. After all I am only a man.”
Chandler dedicated his last completed novel, Playback, this way: “To Sally [her family name], with love and kisses and whatever else might seem suitable to the occasion. A real natural blonde with grey eyes. What does a man do, darling? Ray.”