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Playback (Philip Marlowe #7)

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  3,167 ratings  ·  208 reviews
Marlowe is hired by an influential lawyer he's never herd of to tail a gorgeous redhead, but decides he prefers to help out the redhead. She's been acquitted of her alcoholic husband's murder, but her father-in-law prefers not to take the court's word for it.

"Chandler wrote like a slumming angel and invested the sun-blinded streets of Los Angeles with a romantic presence:"...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published August 12th 1988 by Vintage (first published 1958)
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Ian Paganus
"A Little Quiet Fun At My Own Expense"

The waiter set a glass down on the table in front of me. It was my sixth drink in an hour. I couldn’t even remember ordering it. I drank it. It seemed like the right thing to do. The waiter watched me put down the empty glass. “Another shot?” he asked. I nodded. “You’ll have to pay for this one.” I looked around the room in search of my benefactor. I saw her first, sitting alone at a nearby table, then I saw her legs. They didn’t look like any legs I had see...more
Evgeny
Philip Marlowe is given a task of tailing a woman by a prominent lawyer. The job is so easy Marlowe begins to wonder who the woman is and why the tailing was necessary at all. This is the whole mystery in the book. If you do not want huge spoilers, do not read the book's blurb as it gives away the only mystery element present.

The only redeeming quality of the book is its length: it is the shortest novel of the series. As I mentioned before the mystery part is practically non-existent, nothing wo...more
Anthony Vacca
Clocking in at a malnourished 166 pages (that’s two hundred pages less than the prosperously-gutted masterpiece, The Long Goodbye) Playback is anything but the last, great Marlowe novel, and neither is it really a worthy swan song. But a Marlowe novel is a Marlowe novel is a Marlowe novel. This last time around, Marlowe gets railroaded into a job tailing a knockout redhead, which quickly turns into a muddled mystery involving blackmail, murder, gangsters, and a crappy tourist-trap town. Marlowe...more
Mark
Apr 08, 2013 Mark rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of, its never too late type things!
Recommended to Mark by: My own determination to fathom Chandler
Good grief. What a difference 18 months or so makes. I read The Big Sleep and i enjoyed it up to a point but found it a souffle overly egged on the 'witty and offbeat images' ingredient but this one, Playback, I absolutely loved. There is still the wit, the clever descriptions, the tension and mystery but it simply flowed for me more and perhaps i found Marlowe more attractive as a character. He seemed more human and if Chandler sometime strayed into dangerous territory in the prose stakes he in...more
Tfitoby
Oh man, I've got a problem, this is the second Chandler in a row where I've been quite bored by the end.

What starts off as pure Marlowe gold in his meeting with Ms Vermilyea manages to become dull, rushed and predictable by halfway. Sure the dialogue is great but everything else somehow falls flat in the convoluted mess of a plot.

I'm so disappointed and exhausted from reading these 150 pages that I can't even fully form my thoughts in to interesting paragraphs.
Zack S.
'Playback', Chandler's final completed novel and the follow-up to 'The Long Goodbye', is a novel that has managed to haunt me since I read it three years ago. The prose throttles me with its speed and economy, and in this novel, more than any of Chandler's others, I feel Marlowe's humanity.

Marlowe is tired, and his sense of reality is breaking down. An example: he beds Miss Vermilyea, his client's secretary, then leaves her house wondering if anything happened. He calls after her down the hallwa...more
Larry
Chandler's last novel has defects in plotting, but not in writing. Philip Marlowe, the most influential of the early fictional private eyes, is hired to tail a good-looking redhead who seems to be on the lam. He isn't told much about the job by his stuffy employer, a lawyer named Clyde Umney (with a wonderful flashy secretary named Miss Vermilyea), but then Umney doesn't know much either. It soon becomes evident that the young woman is complicated and that she is being followed, and shaken down,...more
An Odd1
5* for now, to remind me to try more. California 1950s had hats, spats, gloves, garters, hankies; some things, like PBX, phone switchboard intercom, no longer exist. The dated setting and phrasing are major to the charm of Chandler. I like humorous expressions. "The next hour was three hours long."
Hard-boiled shamus Philip Marlowe is hired by unknown bigwigs back East to tail classy Eleanor King from the Super Chief train. He overhears sleazy Larry Mitchell blackmail the dusky-red-wavy-haired b...more
Ed
Hey, it's Chandler, so he gets 5 stars, even if it's probably not the best of PI Marlowe. But we get to see different shades of him. Plus the writing has the usual fire power. Interesting minor characters give voice to Chandler's world view late in his life. Sad, poignant, and accessible. Loved it. Plan to read/re-read more titles soon.
Gerry
Lawyer Clive Umney wakens Marlowe, much to his annoyance, in the early morning and instructs him to follow one of the passengers off the eight o'clock Chicago train.

He discovers her name is Eleanor King, a beautiful, classy and claerly unhappy lady. He discovers she is using an alias and is being blackmailed and in trying to sort the problem out he comes up against gangsters, hard men and a hitman ... but in true Marlowe style he overcomes all adversity and saves the day and, of course, the lady...more
Andrew
I've read three Chandlers so far (also The Lady In The Lake and The Big Sleep) and I have to say this was my favourite. The plot, as such, is a little ramshackle and the *big secret* the main dame carries might not be something to shout about, but the prose seems darker than ever and there are slices of almost existential brilliance which left me breathless. If anything, this was more real, more hit-and-miss which real life is all about. The only puzzle is that my edition has a cover shot of a p...more
Michael
The last completed novel by Raymond Chandler; Playback is somewhat less impressive than all the other Philip Marlowe novels. While still enjoyable it just didn’t have the same feel as some of his better known works, like The Big Sleep, The Long Goodbye, Farewell, My Lovely or The Lady in the Lake. It is one book that people either enjoyed or hated but in my case I did enjoy it, as all other hardboiled novels I’ve read. The banter before Marlowe and Miss Vermilyea alone make this book worth readi...more
Jessica
Marlowe falls hard for a redhead here, but in his own way, he keeps his wits in spite of it all. A curious story, but an intriguing one.
James Schubring
There is no reason to review a Raymond Chandler novel. It's clear what you'll get before you open the cover: the lying dame, the P.I. slogging through lies, a few fights, a few dead men, perhaps a car chase.

What is always wonderful and always surprising about a Chandler novel is the particular care taken with aspects of the language:

"The next hour was three hours long." I've lived that hour before.

"A cheap sneaky job for people I didn't like." Such a clever way to describe the work of a P.I. (Su...more
Kristian Olesen
Chandler's last Marlowe book is also his most introspective. There is hardly any mystery to be solved here, and what little there is has none of the punch and cleverness of earlier outings.

Not that anyone has ever come to a Marlowe novel expecting a watertight plot, and those who do have invariably missed the point. Chandler doesn't write perfect murder-mysteries - he often doesn't even write good murder-mysteries. What Chandler writes is scenes - beautiful, punchy scenes filled with character...more
J
I don't know what to think of this book. "If that's the case, Rat," I can hear you say, "why the devil did you give it five stars?" Well, I gave it five stars because it provoked considerable emotion in me, because it intrigued and sometimes baffled me, and because I feel like Mr. Chandler was trying to do something almost experimental with it. I'm not sure what that is, but I feel like there's stuff here in this book that is bigger than my understanding, and I want to give that the benefit of t...more
David Mcangus
Considering the circumstances, I found Playback to be a satisfactory end to my time with Marlowe. It's different to the previous works, in that the plot really is rather irrelevant here. Personally I'd make the argument this is the case with all of Chandler's work, but here it is glaring. What we receive instead is Marlowe's existentialist wanderings. Is he going to be a P.I forever? Is he ever going to allow other people into his life? He's a somewhat broken man in Playback, and after The Long...more
Keith


3.5--not quite up to the standard of the earlier novels. There's kinda sorta a plot, but not really enough to keep even Marlowe interested. He beds a few dames, follows a few leads, snaps off a few one-liners, and downs a few shots, all in a perfunctory manner. The big reveal isn't all that big--it is summarily brushed aside by the local police captain; and the bigger reveal isn't much bigger--it is summarily brushed aside by Marlowe. Having said all that, it's a quick and enjoyable read. Just...more
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
The last, and definitely the least, of Chandler's novels. Some of those ice-pick similes and that spiky wit is still on display, but the plot unravels a little too easily at the end and Marlowe is a bit of a sexual goon this time around. His musings on women get pretty sexist and the dialogue put in the mouths of female characters in the many sex scenes (considerably less explicit than what you'd find in, say, James Hadley Chase, thankfully) is frankly egregious. This one is more for the complet...more
Roy
It's no secret that I love Chandler's Marlowe more than any other fictional detective. The books are high on style, even if the plotting isn't always particularly tight. Chandler was a master of colorful language, from his amazing descriptions of the city, to the playful dialogue.

Which is why this review is all the more difficult. Playback was the last of Chandler's Marlowe books, but what a sad way to go out. It's a rather anemic addition to the series, with Marlowe coming across as less of th...more
Marcie
This time out, it's romantic Marlowe! Marlowe on the make! Mac-daddy Marlowe!

This one is interesting in that the mystery doesn't end with revealing and apprehending a villain. Weird, right?

It's just a slice of Chandler's mid-century LA with Chandler characters having Chandler dialogue in Chandler settings. It's not any less beautiful or compelling than one of his novels with a bit more of plot.

Besides, Marlowe's getting laid! Twice! By two different dames! Actually, everything kinda happens twic...more
Michael A
This is the Marlowe worst novel, by far. Maybe not even a novel at that - one could argue it was a novella given its length.

Chandler was tired out and drinking too much. Marlowe was tired out. It all shows here. I don't think I'll bother with reading anything else by him, now that I've gone through the seven novels. I guess the previous novel, The Long Goodbye, really had taken much of what he had left because this isn't even at the level of his mediocre early 1940s works. Why is this so?

Well,...more
Andrew
Far away the worst Marlowe book. It is hard to even put it up against the Long Goodbye or Big Sleep. The plot is lacking, but worse are the auxillary characters that usually make these books so readable and fun. Chandler seems intent on getting Marlowe laid in this book. Unfortunately, the dames in this book are not interesting, tough or smart neither are the romances at all credible. Little suspense or violence in this one. However, it is Chandler so it is very readable.
Myles
Even granting that Playback was not intended to be the final Marlowe novel, I'm still disappointed. This is it. 'Cause I'm going to be honest, there's no way I'm reading Poodle Springs. The first four chapters actually written by Chandler perhaps, but that's all.

The building world-weary bitterness of the series and especially The Long Goodbye's elegiac tone could not be sustained, but I didn't fully accept Marlowe's constant leching. As for the plot...Marlowe is asked to follow an unknown woman...more
Rebecca
Chandler books seem to be either very good or a little bit dreadful. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground. I think some of it is that he writes with such a hyperbolic style that there isn't much room for error. When everything clicks, the story hums along, the understated action ratchets up the tension, and the extended metaphors lend a stylish air. When it doesn't, the story stops making sense, the understatement makes everything baffling, and the metaphors become parodies of themselves....more
Jeffrey Round
Despite the splashier reputation of other volumes, this is my favourite of the nine Philip Marlowe novels. Marlowe's tough-guy tone, with the overt racism, misogyny and homophobia of earlier books, is at a bare minimum. The prose is lean and clean, the characters' sexuality open and honest. All in all, it's refreshing. Chandler has taken The Maltese Falcon's Brigid O'Shaughnessy and turned her into a good, if still somewhat dishonest woman. At first Marlowe shadows her at the request of an anony...more
H.Friedmann
I picked this novel because I needed a quick little read. and of course I always enjoy Chandler. Even if I can't remember which is which. No one else can write with his style and quantity of simile without coming off as a cheep hardboiled hack. But he's the one who set the standard and with Hammett made noir into an art form. In this, the last of the Marlowe novels, the PI is dragooned into taking a job with too much money and not enough information. Complications, violence and reluctant heroics...more
Darrell Kastin
Considered Chandler's worst book, but I found it thoroughly enjoyable even after having read all of Chandler's previously published books first. It's darkly humorous, with Chandler's usual gathering of strange characters. Hell, even at his worst Chandler delivers and out does most anyone you can name today.
Linda
Chandler's females are always complex, but Betty Mayfield really takes the cake. She's both a cooly calculating redhead with a desire to stay alive, and also a tad hotheaded. I found the dead-man-on-highrise-porch scenario just a tad unrealistic, though Chandler does his best to explain everything at the end. Would have been more impressed with this work if Marlowe didn't have such a frustrated white knight complex mixed with an unhealthy amount of suspicion (mostly justified) about the duplicit...more
Nancy Oakes
Well, here it is -- the last original book in the Marlowe series, and I've now read them all. I'm actually going to miss reading these, wondering what Marlowe would have gotten himself into down the road. I've LOVED each and every book in this series, and for that matter, the series as a whole.

I'll leave off plot here, but you can get more by clicking through to my post on this book at my online reading journal.

Playback is a novel that is one long conundrum -- every time Marlowe figures someth...more
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Raymond Thornton Chandler was an American novelist and screenwriter.

In 1932, at age forty-four, Raymond Chandler decided to become a detective fiction writer after losing his job as an oil company executive during the Depression. His first short story, "Blackmailers Don't Shoot", was published in 1933 in Black Mask, a popular pulp magazine. His first novel, The Big Sleep, was published in 1939. In...more
More about Raymond Chandler...
The Big Sleep The Long Goodbye Farewell, My Lovely The Lady in the Lake The High Window

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“If I wasn't hard, I wouldn't be alive.
If I couldn't ever be gentle, I wouldn't deserve to be alive.”
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