“The Long Goodbye” by Raymond Chandler


1st edition cover

This 1953 novel is one of a number based around the character of the private detective, Philip Marlowe. Wikipedia says that critical opinion is split. Some argue that this novel is inferior to others featuring Marlowe, such as The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely. However,  other critics  (and Chandler himself) considered this to be the author’s best book. In 1955, the novel received the Edgar Award for Best Novel (the Edgars – named after Edgar Allan Poe –  are presented by the Mystery Writers of America).

The Long Goodbye is thought to be Chandler’s most personal novel and its tone was influenced by being written at a time when he was suffering from extreme fits of melancholy caused by his wife’s illness and subsequent death. The novel also contains two characters based on Chandler himself.  One is Terry Lennox, an alcoholic who had spent much time in England and been badly scarred in the Second World War. Chandler was raised in England, had served in the first world war and was well aware of his problems with alcohol. The book’s Roger Wade is also frequently drunk. He is an author who, like Chandler,  has successful novels behind him, yet is finding it more difficult to write as he gets older. Both Wade and Chandler write novels that are viewed by many as not “real” literature.

We read this in October 2014…

Of the nine people who attended our meeting, almost everyone had enjoyed the book and many praised Chandler’s writing style, with admiration for the imagery and dialogue, also the way that Marlowe’s voice rings out. Several people commented on the one-liners and at least three readers wanted to repeat some of their favourites. Readers liked the larger-than-life characters and settings, also the overall atmosphere.

We noted that the novel combined detective fiction with social criticism. Through Marlowe, the author seemed world-weary and cynical, seemingly criticising everything from police methods to gambling.

Was there any criticism? Barbara found the characters alien both in terms of the culture and the historical context and did not particularly like the book. Malcolm found some of Marlowe’s behaviour strange and thought it was difficult to understand what he might be thinking.

Votes ranged from 5 to 9 and resulted in an average score of 7.5 from 10 readers.

Most likely to be described as…

“hard boiled”.

Organisational footnote

By rights, this novel would be up on the library list but it’s off. Not wanting to be left out, Helen stood up to put this down on our off-list. Once we knew it was on, all was right, so we read it up before getting on down to talking up the rights of the book, until all that was left was to drink right up and go home.  Thanks Helen!

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