Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Long Goodbye - Raymond Chandler

I just finished re-reading my favorite Raymond Chandler book The Long Goodbye. It has everything.

A great hardboiled story: Marlowe's friend is accused of murder and the cops, the hoods and the powerful all warn Marlowe off the case. Inexorably the case is pushed onto him until he solves everything to no one's liking, including his.

It defines the essence of hardboiled detectives: “...this was the part I never listened to. Because if I ever had I would have stayed in the town where I grew up and worked in the hardware store...”

It discusses writing as a business: “The public likes long books. ...if there are lots of pages there must be lots of gold.” There are shots at advertising which he compares to chess: “ elaborate a waste of human intelligence as you could find anywhere outside an advertising agency.”

It has the best descriptions of drinking this side of Malcolm Lowry: Such as when you have stopped drinking “... It's a different world. You have to get used to a paler set of colors, a quieter lot of sounds. ...”

But if I had to give The Long Goodbye a book review rating it would be 2 stars. Chandler doesn't do the 1950's well. Censorship had loosened up and he uncomfortably tried to go with the new flow in pulp. Marlowe calls a man “flea dirt” and describes himself in one scene as being “erotic as a stallion.” I doubt that those lines read well in 1954, much less now.

As much as I enjoy the literary side trips in The Long Goodbye, it has too many. I wish Raymond Chandler had stayed focused on the hardboiled angle.

 George W. Parker