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James Hadley Chase is a pseudonym for British author Rene Brabazon Raymond (December 24, 1906 — February 6, 1985) who also wrote under the names James L. Docherty, Ambrose Grant, and Raymond Marshall. Chase, a London-born son of a British colonel serving in the colonial Indian Army who intended his son to have a scientific career, was initially raised at the King's School, Rochester, Kent and later studied in Calcutta. He left home at the age of 18 and became at different times a broker in a bookshop, a children's encyclopedia salesman, and a book wholesaler before capping it all with a writing career that produced more than 80 mystery books. In 1933, Chase married Sylvia Ray, who gave him a son. Following the US Great Depression (1929-1939), the Prohibition, and the gangster culture during this period, and 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. The book achieved remarkable popularity and became one of the best-sold books of the decade. It was a stage play in London's West End, was filmed in 1948 and in 1971 was remade by Robert Aldrich as The Grissom Gang.
During World War II he served as a pilot in the RAF, eventually 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. It 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 says, "I use a safety razor, 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.
In 1946, Graham Greene, who was a very good friend of Chase's, selected a Chase novel, More Deadly Than the Male (written under the pseudonym Ambrose Grant), for publishing under the Bloomsbury logo.
Chase wrote most of his books using a dictionary of American slang, detailed maps, encyclopedias, and reference books on the American underworld. Most of the books were based on events occurring in the United States, even though he never really lived in the United States, save for two brief visits to Miami and New Orleans. In 1943, the Anglo-American crime author Raymond Chandler successfully claimed that Chase had lifted whole sections of his works in "Blonde's Requiem".<1> Chase's London publisher Hamish Hamilton forced Chase to publish an apology in The Bookseller.
In several of Chase's stories the protagonist tries to get rich by committing a crime—an insurance fraud or a theft. But the scheme fails and leads to a murder and finally to a 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; they kill unhesitatingly if they have to cover a crime. His plots typically centre around dysfunctional families, and the final denouement justifies the title!
Unlike Agatha Christie's novels, in almost none of his novels, do the readers have to guess the killer. The reader knows who the killer is from the very beginning, yet the beauty of his books were that Chase always kept the reader on their tiptoes, guessing "what happens next?". This was actually the byword in most of this novels.
In many of his novels, women, treacherous as they are, play a significant part. The protagonist falls in love with them and is prepared to kill someone at her behest, so he could get her. Only when he has killed, does he realize that the woman was actually using him to get someone killed.
He was wildly popular in Asia and Africa. He also enjoyed success in France and Italy where more than twenty of his books were made into movies. Joseph Losey's film version of Chase's thriller EVE (1945), made in 1962, was cut by the producers, the Hakim brothers. In the story Stanley Baker played by a British writer, Tyvian, who is obsessed by a cold-hearted femme fatale, Eve (Jeanne Moreau). "Do you know how much this weekend's going to cost me?" he asks Eve. "Two friends, thirty thousand dollars …and a wife." He was also extremely popular in the Soviet Union during and after the perestroika years around 1990–1993.
Chase moved to France in 1956 and then to Switzerland in 1961, living a secluded life in Corseaux-Sur-Vevey, north of Lake Geneva, from 1974. He eventually died there peacefully on February 6, 1985.