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The long Goodbye – Raymond Chandler

22 Jul

Chazza1Down-and-out drunk Terry Lennox has a problem: his millionaire wife is dead and he needs to get out of LA fast. So he turns to his only friend in the world: Philip Marlowe, Private Investigator. He’s willing to help a man down on his luck, but later, Lennox commits suicide in Mexico and things start to turn nasty. Marlowe finds himself drawn into a sordid crowd of adulterers and alcoholics in LA’s Idle Valley, where the rich are suffering one big suntanned hangover. Marlowe is sure Lennox didn’t kill his wife, but how many more stiffs will turn up before he gets to the truth?

This is by far Chandler’s most ambitious novel, doubling the size of its closest rival it’s exceptional example of noir detective literature and one I was most impressed with.

This is the sixth of the seven Marlowe novels – which can be read in any order – and is certainly the strongest.  This is a mature book showing the author getting to grips with the underside of American morals or lack thereof in some quarters.

At some point it became trendy to give the sleuth of any book or TV show  a drink problem or be a single parent or other such obstacles to ‘doing the job properly’ but Marlowe manages to be a fascinating character without these contrivances.  Chandler creates truly flawed characters,not just as a way to control the plot but to question the aims and thoughts of the individual and his or her place in society.

‘Alcohol is like love,’ he said.  ‘The first kiss is magic, the second intimate, the third is routine.  After that you take the girl’s clothes off’.

He’s a loner, an intellectual, although he would not admit it, a lover of Chess and drinking.  He has his ethical code and will stick to it, he does what is right (even if it doesn’t pay) and is capable of deep cynicism yet surprisingly, a strong sense of sentimentality.

As our narrator, he approaches each setting and character as a detective would, he observes and picks out what is important, there is no need for anything but the facts.  This sparse style doesn’t detract though as I think everybody has the images of LA in he 50’s firmly implanted in our heads from various films and books that we can fill in the blanks ourselves.

There is much fun to be had with the hard-bitten one liners, the Chandlerisms if you will.  The author’s similes are ice-cold and always highly entertaining,  it really gives even more class to such an iconic character and gives the atmosphere a darker feel. It’s dry and unsympathetic yet fits into the world perfectly, he is undoubtedly an author you will enjoy quoting and probably relish in the pessimism of his words.

The slow burning nature of the plot suits the leisurely and sleepy feel of the L.A portrayed, although there is a sense that the luxury and sleaze could explode at any minute, It feels very edgy and believable.  The intricate plot is full of secrets, revenge, injustice and ambition, it’s a scathing indictment of the morality and integrity of America and the ills of society which still holds true all those years on.  Crime literature doesn’t get much more penetrating than this.

I caught the rest of it in one of those snob columns in the society section of the paper.  I don’t read them often, only when I run out of things to dislike.

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52 Comments

Posted by on 22/07/2014 in Crime

 

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52 responses to “The long Goodbye – Raymond Chandler

  1. shadowoperator

    22/07/2014 at 19:14

    Hi, Ste J. I can’t remember whether it’s Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler, but one or the other of them says something somewhere like “that day the atmosphere of Los Angeles was like a dirty paper cup blowing across a muddy intersection,” or words to that effect. That one image has always been one of my favorite “film noir” images, at least in words. I should be able to remember it more exactly, therefore, but it’s been years since I’ve read either of them, though I seem to recall a period when I read them both voraciously. Someone needs to write a mystery featuring an absent-minded English major detective called “The Never-ending Senior Moment!”

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    • Ste J

      22/07/2014 at 19:19

      I’d buy that…and then review it! I haven’t had the pleasure of Hammett yet although The Maltese falcon is sitting on my bookshelf (extreme left third shelf from the bottom). These books which people still dismiss as pulp have a lot going on under the surface, I do think Chandler is less appreciated than he deserves…as to Hammett I shall bump him further up the constantly changing to read next pile.

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  2. Al

    22/07/2014 at 19:59

    It reminds me of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, although I never read any books, the TV series was played out like a book with Hammer being the narrator and a person who turns up in every one to throw his concentration off as he tries to work out who this person is in his life.

    I have not read a good crime novel in a long time. I may have to try Spillane or Chandler at some point.

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    • Ste J

      22/07/2014 at 20:03

      I shall note the name down as well, sounds intriguing…

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      • Al

        22/07/2014 at 20:23

        It was Stacey Keach who played Hammer. I have always liked him as an actor.

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  3. shadowoperator

    22/07/2014 at 20:56

    Stacey Keach is (or was? is he still with us?) a wonderful actor. I can imagine him playing any, practically any, hard-boiled detective, though I didn’t see him play Hammer. My sympathy for Mickey Spillane is more limited, as I have been told that he is extremely sexist and writes things far more demeaning to women than either Hammett or Chandler did. I wonder which female mystery writer would be the female Mickey Spillane. I have run across the occasional female writer who made her male characters one-dimensional and predictably moronic, but I can’t lay a hand on a name just at the moment. Agatha Christie does, of course, but her female characters are the same way, so there’s no imbalance in that sense, they’re just all part of her great formulaic skill. Want to give me some help here, Al? How about you, Ste J?

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    • Ste J

      23/07/2014 at 14:19

      I need to get involved with Hammer, I am so woefully under detectived! In fact I am not particularly prolific with mysteries, M. C Beaton’s Hamish MacBeth series has some pretty clichéd male characters which being Scottish are predictably a bunch of drunks. Other than that, I don’t really know enough…I think I need to set myself some homework.

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      • shadowoperator

        23/07/2014 at 19:43

        Yes, M. C. Beaton has recently earned both low marks from me (I find her too “cutesy”), and a cautious “cozy books” from Caroline, who says she can only take her in small doses. By the by, if you’re onto mystery and detective fiction, you might find an on-going discussion Caroline has on her site now interesting (http://beautyisasleepingcat.wordpress.com/). She started writing about Nicci French (the nom de plume of the husband-and-wife team Nicci Gerard and Sean French), but I and others sought her advice and knowledge of a number of other writers as well. Her friend Vishy as well as she has read almost everything, and that’s only a bit of an exaggeration. If you’re looking for mystery or crime stuff, you might like to have a look.

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        • Ste J

          25/07/2014 at 19:36

          Thanks for the links I shall go over there and have a browse, I’m always up for new blogs and content…it feeds my thirst for knowledge. I must admit I do leave a huge gap between the Beaton’s but it is one of my guilty pleasures.

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          • shadowoperator

            25/07/2014 at 19:51

            Steve, I also gave Caroline your blog address, so that she and her readers can see your discussion(s). Maybe one of the new posts you’re going to do soon could be on the film noir as starred in by Humphrey Bogart and/or Lauren Bacall (or have you already done that somewhere and I’ve missed it?) I really liked “Notorious,” and would love to see what you have to say about it.

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            • Ste J

              25/07/2014 at 19:56

              I have bookmarked Caroline’s blog as well, had a quick shufty but need to have a proper read real soon. I haven’t done many film posts yet but am looking at getting a lot more involved with different aspects of film…also I like the idea of researching that involves popcorn and a beer with my feet up. I shall look into it though!

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              • shadowoperator

                25/07/2014 at 20:04

                Here’s another thought: if you’re going to spend money renting the video or DVD anyway, why not go to a revival theatre to see noir films? I say that not knowing if you have one near you, but they are great places to see them, as they are often on backstreets, in gritty parts of town themselves, usually cheaper than the average cinema, full of atmosphere, and the projectors have a habit of misbehaving, which lends a certain ambience to your viewing experience! And you can still have the popcorn, though you will probably have to sneak in already “beered” up if you want suds with your experience.

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                • Ste J

                  25/07/2014 at 20:09

                  I have a friend very into film who lives in Nottingham and I am sure he would know the places and be well up for that sort of odyssey…I wonder to what extent English cinemas will do them but it is good to have a look…I hate becoming complacent over anything. I can go without the beer and will probably smuggle my own food and drink in…I like to feel like a rebel.

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                  • shadowoperator

                    25/07/2014 at 20:21

                    Whatever food you take with you, be sure to take along a cheap packet or two of “Milk Duds” or “Junior Mints” or “M & M’s” or something small and hard and round, anyway, that can be flung at the screen along with “boos” and noise when the projector breaks down. It’s probably not part of a polite British tradition, but here in the Colonies, we expect our noir films to take a certain amount of backchat if they don’t perform properly (which, being made–I don’t know how–from old copies, they often won’t).

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                    • Ste J

                      25/07/2014 at 20:27

                      I think there would be some subtle tutting but that is not our way, although I am happy to go in for the full experience. I have seen the way you guys see films, you’re all very expressive and shouty at the screen. I tend not to go to the cinema much so perhaps things have changed but I shall pick up some M&M’s as that is the only one of the three that we have over here…we are so deprived.

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                    • shadowoperator

                      25/07/2014 at 20:37

                      While you’re at it this summer, if you do go for an evening or two at the cinema, be sure not to miss “Godzilla” (the new version). I realize it’s not a film noir, and so is off-topic, but it’s really good for that kind of film, and when you have a child along (my 11-year-old nephew went with us) it’s really a lot of fun. Babysit or something, and get a child to take along to terrify. Actually, if your responses are anything like mine to sitting near the front of the theatre and encountering improbably large monsters, the child will probably be blander than you are with the experience.

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                    • Ste J

                      25/07/2014 at 20:44

                      I was put off by the last one that came out, which had the decent song but I hear good things about this one…it is the inner nature of humanity to watch things being smashed up and I am up for that as well. I tend to avoid children usually but if there is some sort of legal and above board opportunity (and the child isn’t irritating) then I will ‘make it so’…because I can sometimes be like Captain Picard as well.

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    • Al

      24/07/2014 at 01:00

      Yes he is. He was in Prison Break recently. Not sure about other stuff, will have to check

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      • shadowoperator

        25/07/2014 at 19:18

        Boy, I’m glad Keach is still alive. He’s similar in a masculine way to actress Stockard Channing, who’s really talented but seems to go for a long time between parts (or maybe I’m just missing some things). I think Keach had a drug problem early on, and when I hadn’t heard of him for some time, I think I got him confused with some other actor who overdosed. Nice to know that isn’t the case.

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        • Al

          25/07/2014 at 20:24

          He was in The Bourne Legacy and also in the upcoming Sin City 2 so well and truly alive. I like him. He is one of the first actors to be on TV with a facial impediment – a hair-lip – which is why he grew the moustache in the first place. He played Hammer in 1984 and reprised the role 97 which I didn’t know.

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  4. gargoylebruce

    22/07/2014 at 23:11

    I refuse to believe that a crowd of alcoholics and adulterers could possibly be sordid.

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    • Ste J

      23/07/2014 at 14:03

      And that is why you fit right in with this crowd!

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  5. sakuraandme

    23/07/2014 at 05:04

    Hey Mr S, 🙂

    Wow, what a review! Sounds right up my alley and therefore I shall hunt the book down.
    Well, not an Easter Hunt but a book hunt! I best walk and not hop or strangers shall think I am rather weird, right? Hahaha

    Hugs Paula xxx

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    • Ste J

      23/07/2014 at 14:02

      Strangers may join in and you create a world trend or a new world order, not that sinister one that watches us all the time though. It is an easy book to get hold of, if you can’t find it in the crime section of your local book shop then it’s not a real bookshop, you have just imagined it.

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      • sakuraandme

        23/07/2014 at 18:09

        Hahaha. I’m sure I’ll find it. It’s 1am so I must get to bed before I fall asleep on my laptop. 🙂
        Hugs xxxx

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        • Ste J

          23/07/2014 at 18:39

          Sleep well my friend. xx

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  6. Christina ~

    23/07/2014 at 06:34

    I find it fascinating by your words alone to decipher how much you enjoyed a book or not without you actually stating either as fact…sometimes you do and sometimes you do not. That being said, it is clear you very much enjoyed this one and I am most anxious to read some Chandler as well. I believe The Big Sleep is the one sitting on my shelves now calling to me…which is highly distracting as I am still working my way through three books…

    I always love your multilayered look at all books, their style and syntax…you always find very varied ways of making a book enticing enough to, once again, reshuffle my TBR…if only all problems were as such, life would be much brighter for certain.

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    • Ste J

      23/07/2014 at 14:09

      You know me too well! I did enjoy this book, it has a bit of everything that a book in the crime mystery genre. A cutting one liner and a grim but realistic look at thing is always going to be popular with me. I think it will be a nice contrast to the classics you have been reading of late and cleanse the pallet. I like to imagine America is still like this and therefore didn’t believe my eyes on either of two visits last time.

      I do like to show the mixture of what makes a good book and if I can get you into even more authors then this pleases me…you may want to hold fire though because I am sure that I will rejig your TB again soon enough.

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  7. Alastair Savage

    23/07/2014 at 07:55

    I think the Long Goodbye is the most powerful of Chandler’s novels because it is so personal. Through Terry Lennox’s struggles and Marlowe’s attempts to aid him, Chandler also deals with his own alcoholism and the destruction that it creates. It is beautifully written although I personally don’t believe the ending (which I won’t give away here).
    Despite the fact that the Long Goodbye is so good, The Big Sleep is my personal favourite of Chandler’s novels. It is immaculate.
    Now, mine’s a gimlet…

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    • Ste J

      23/07/2014 at 14:14

      The ending was certainly not something I would have gone for particularly but with the rest of the book being as it is, then it can be overlooked. I did enjoy The Big Sleep as well, being the first and also the first one I read it has that impact and really throws you into his world. Beware the gimlet, it usually comes with a no good woman!

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  8. Elizabeth Melton Parsons

    24/07/2014 at 12:54

    Whenever I think of Marlowe, I picture Humphrey Bogart. Can’t help it. I love mysteries and I like Chandler a lot. Most especially The Lady in the Lake. I haven’t read this one, but after reading your post, I’m going to have to make a trip to the library. 🙂

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    • Ste J

      25/07/2014 at 19:06

      I really enjoyed The Lady in the Lake as well, he writes about such a grimy world and I love getting sunk into it. This one is a lot more ambitious, it takes his vision to the new level.

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  9. LuAnn

    24/07/2014 at 14:11

    When I began reading your review, my initial impression was I’m not sure this is for me, but as usually goes with you my friend, I was completely drawn in and find that I now must add it to my list, which thanks to you is ever-growing. 😉

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    • Ste J

      25/07/2014 at 18:56

      Excellent, I have another couple of books that will come up soon which may also enter into the to read book pile pretty high up…as I would say if I was DJ Ste J.

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  10. Sherri

    24/07/2014 at 19:11

    This is my kind of book, love Philip Marlowe and all that ‘Noir’. I was obsessed with James Hadley Chase books in my teens. Did you ever read any of his stuff? His style reminds me of Raymond Chandler, in fact I think JHC was accused of plagiarising some of RC;s writing wasn’t he? All I know is I absolutely loved his books as well as RC’s.
    Hope you don’t mind, I don’t make a habit of this, but I thought you might like to read this post I wrote about JHC last year since you seem to like the same kind of crime novels from the same era. http://sherrimatthewsblog.com/2013/09/24/james-hadley-chase-and-american-pancakes/ Would love to know your thoughts…
    Thanks so much for this great review Ste. I simply MUST get this book, the perfect summer read 🙂

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    • Ste J

      25/07/2014 at 20:06

      I have never come across JHC before but I am all up for even more books that I can be sulky about never having the time to read. I shall go over to your blog asap and have a gander…I really should do a summer season or reviews next year, I need to keep (over) filling your shelves up.

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      • Sherri

        28/07/2014 at 13:36

        Thanks Ste, will head there now to read 🙂

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  11. Cody McCullough

    04/08/2014 at 20:37

    I do like Philip Marlowe. He’s one of my favorite fictional detectives. Great post.

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    • Ste J

      05/08/2014 at 13:52

      He is refreshingly unencumbered by all the dull plot points that authors demand their detectives put up with. Plus sometimes it is fun to have a drink when Marlowe does, although that may just be my bad habits coming back shining through.

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  12. thejerseygal®™

    18/08/2014 at 00:43

    Sounds a bit humorous and I love a flawed character. Drunks are easily relatable. Hiccup. I truly like and admire your writing style for book reviews. I feel like I’m not getting a load of bull or just a paid ad for a book, but an honest review. You make choosing books easier for me. Take the guess work out of it.

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    • Ste J

      18/08/2014 at 16:34

      Blog reviews are the way to go, ‘the slightly questionable face you can trust’ is the line I want on my business card. I am cynical about bestsellers as like you say the positive reviews from fellow authors who owe them a favour.same publisher and the like, or publishers pay for them to get pride of place in bookstores…I hate that. The books I choose are nice and varied and all I can do is give you my proper opinion, otherwise you’d all go elsewhere. Then I would be sad. Flawed characters are great, all detectives have to be flawed, it’s like a law.

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      • thejerseygal®™

        18/08/2014 at 16:52

        We need to get you a career in radio or television! Your humor is everything! Followed closely my your honesty. The slightly questionable face you can trust. I’m gonna try to stop giggling!

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        • Ste J

          18/08/2014 at 16:58

          I do have designs on a radio appearance at some point this year…fingers crossed.

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  13. Liz

    31/05/2016 at 21:28

    I have been struggling to get on with crime fiction recently, so I thought I would have a noodle around in your crime archives to see what inspiration I could find. You have not let me down! As you mention in this post, it seems to be compulsory in crime novels these days to hamper the main detective in various ways – usually some form of addiction and inability to hold regular relationships with anyone. It drives me mad! But I do like a good page turner and I can see that Chandler might just fit the (old) bill – thanks once again, my friend!

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    • Ste J

      31/05/2016 at 21:38

      Nicely worded! The Big Sleep is the first book in the Philip Marlowe series, not that they really follow on, the odd reference is mentioned but nothing major. He’s to the point, I like it, Chandler evokes the era and you have given me a timely reminder to reader the last Marlowe novel Playback sometime soon.

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      • Liz

        31/05/2016 at 21:43

        Look forward to that review then sometime. Meanwhile, have you read any Micky Spillane? I have on my shelf a Mike Hammer omnibus (goodness knows how it got there, or how long it has been hanging around, lol) – worth a look or should I donate it?

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        • Ste J

          31/05/2016 at 21:50

          Never come across Spillane and I haven’t touched The Maltese Falcon either, so little time and yet here I am so unknowledgeable about books in the grand scheme of things.

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          • Liz

            31/05/2016 at 21:54

            A problem we all suffer from. But you are very knowledgable and erudite about the books on your radar, so that’s fine. I will dip into the Spillane and let you know what I think – maybe I can role-reverse that favour you frequently do for us of filleting something out so you don’t have to read it.

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            • Ste J

              31/05/2016 at 21:57

              You are too kind, anything to save me time or to get me another book is all good. When I finally finish The Pillars of the Earth I will feel like I am back to reading, rather than treading water. Not that I find it boring but at 1074 pages don’t seem to be going down that fast.

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              • Liz

                31/05/2016 at 22:00

                I think I read that about 100 years ago – my memory is that I quite enjoyed it, but I don’t think I was such a discerning reader back then lol

                Like

                 

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