Judith Freeman is a novelist, essayist, critic, and short story writer whose first work of non-fiction, The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and The Woman He Loved, was published by Pantheon in November 2007. Her first book was a collection of short stories, Family Attractions (1988), which was praised in the New York Times and The New York Review of Books for its originality. Her novels include The Chinchilla Farm (1989), Set For Life (1991), A Desert of Pure Feeling (1996), and most recently, Red Water, named one of the 100 best books of 2002 by the Los Angeles Times.
Red Water also won the Utah Book Award and was short listed for the Mountain and Plains Booksellers’ award. Widely reviewed, The New Yorker called it a novel “that makes astute points about the almost indistinguishable similarities between faith and love.” The story is set in 19th Century Utah and focuses on a bloody event known as The Mountain Meadows Massacre in which 120 emigrants from Arkansas, on a wagon train passing through Utah, were slaughtered by a group of Mormon settlers on Sept. 11, 1857. Only one Mormon was ever tried and convicted for the crimes, a polygamist named John D. Lee, and Red Water is told through the voices of three of Lee’s wives.
Judith is the recipient of many awards and prizes. In 1997 she received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in fiction, and also won the Western Heritage Award in 1992 for her novel Set For Life. Her essays, reviews, and stories have appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. She teaches fiction in the Master of Professional Writing program at the University of Southern California, and a class on noir, focusing on films and mystery novels set in LA, through the USC Master of Liberal Studies program. She has also been a writer-in-residence at many workshops around the country, appearing most recently at the Carmel Authors Festival in September, and the Tomales Bay Writers Workshops in October 2007.
In 2005 Judith received a Visiting Fellowship from the Rothermere American Institute at Oxford where she did research in the Raymond Chandler archive in the Bodleian Library and in the fall of 2006 she was a visiting artist at Johns Hopkins University, where she completed work on The Long Embrace.
She has collaborated with other artists and writers on projects. During a year spent in Rome in 1999, she collaborated with the prize-winning composer, Chris Theofanidis, providing the text for a piece for soprano and string instruments, Song of Elos, which was performed at Carnegie Hall, the American Academy in Rome, and the Da Camera Society in Houston. She also traveled to India in 1997 with her friend, the photographer Tina Barney, where they spent seven weeks photographing and writing about an extended family in Rajasthan.
The past four years have been devoted to researching the life of Raymond Chandler, whom Judith considers to be one of the most original writers America has ever produced, and rereading all of his work. The resulting book, The Long Embrace, is not a traditional biography but rather a portrait of the iconic writer and his marriage to a much older woman, Cissy Pascal, a woman who has long been considered an enigma, and how that marriage affected his work and imagination. It is also a portrait of Los Angeles—the city Chandler put on the literary map and one which gave him his material and inspired his work. Chandler lived in over 36 different residences in and around L.A., and Judith tracked down many of these residences and photographed what she found. There are 44 photographs in the book, some of Chandler residences, some archival photographs of LA, as well as pictures of the Chandlers that have never been published before, including the only photograph showing Chandler and his wife together that seems to have survived. There is also a map of Southern California in The Long Embrace, with dots indicating Chandler’s residences, and a legend listing all 36 addresses.
Judith lives in Los Angeles and rural Idaho, dividing her time between an apartment in the MacArthur Park area of the city and a small farm on the Camas Prairie. She is married to the artist-photographer, Anthony Hernandez, whose new book of black and white photographs of L.A. from the late ’70s and early ’80s, Waiting, Sitting, Fishing, and Some Automobiles, have been published by Loosestrife Press.