The Long Goodbye

We’ve already talked about One Book, One Chicago. My wife just checked it out from the library, unbeknownst to me. She let me read it first. Thanks honey.

The Long Goodbye is private investigator Philip Marlowe’s first person account of his run-in with cops and gangsters after he assists a down-on-his-luck acquaintance, Terry Lennox. Marlowe just gives Lennox a ride to Tijuana, that’s all. But shortly thereafter Marlowe finds out that Lennox’s millionaire wife has been bludgeoned to death with a bronze statue in their guest house. Marlowe suspected nothing less anyhow, oh well.

This is gritty. It’s like sleeping on sandpaper. It makes L.A. Confidential feel like a romantic comedy; makes the City of Angels feel cold and rainy all the time. It’s full of dark jail cells, cops that slug you, and dry, humorless commentary on the state of the justice system in Los Angeles. And paragraphs like this (page 249, chapter 35):

The other part of me wanted to get out and stay out, but this was the part I never listened to. Because if I ever had I would have stayed in the town where I was born and worked in the hardware store and married the boss’s daughter and had five kids and read them the funny paper on Sunday morning and smacked their heads when they got out of line and squabbled with the wife about how much spending money they were to get and what programs they could have on the radio or TV set. I might even have got rich – small-town rich, an eight room house, two cars in the garage, chicken every Sunday and the Reader’s Digest on the living room table, the wife with a cast-iron permanent and me with a brain like a sack of Portland cement. You take it, friend. I’ll take the big sordid dirty crooked city.

Just look at that second sentence in the cited passage. It’s huge, but it feels the same now as it did when I first read it. Marlowe could not survive outside of the LA trenches. But in the trenches, he rises above the greed, corruption, lies, and ugliness associated with the city.

Chandler certainly got a load off his chest with this rant. It’s a glimpse into the psyche of Philip Marlowe and probably Chandler also. When I read it Gail was a few feet away and I couldn’t wait to have her to take a look. She was impressed. I really hope she reads it so we can talk about it.

This is such a cool book. The ending rocked. The title makes perfect sense. If you have any affinity for the crime novel, give this one a whirl.