Ian Tregillis's Reviews > Farewell, My Lovely

Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
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Apr 04, 12


Oh, man, do I love me some Raymond Chandler. If I had a dime for every time the prose in this book rocked me on my heels, I'd have enough for a cup of coffee. (And not a cheapo 1940 cup of coffee, either. Something that came out of a polished chrome machine, with a name ending in "-cino".)

Although this is only the second Philip Marlowe novel, it's nearly the last for me. Each Marlowe novel is a gem, a delightful little gem, but Chandler only wrote 7 of them (not counting short story collections, and not counting Poodle Springs, which was completed by Robert B. Parker many years after Chandler's death). What can a fan do, but ration them? That's what I did. But still... 7 books don't last very long. Not when the writing is so damn good:

"...he looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food."

"Then he smiled. He was doing an awful lot of smiling that day. Using up a whole week's supply."

"I like smooth shiny girls, hardboiled and loaded with sin."

Well, who doesn't?

Having read all the "core" Marlowe novels now, I'd say that Chandler plotted like a kid sticking Legos together. (And I say that with love, because goddamn could that man string words together.) He had a set number of blocks, and he sort of rearranged them from book to book. Most books don't use all of Chandler's Legos, but every book uses several of them. But Farewell, My Lovely uses the entire set:

Does Marlowe get sapped? Check. (Twice!)

Does Marlowe get drugged? Check.

Does Marlowe get beat up? Check.

Does Marlowe find a dead body? Duh.

Is there mistaken identity? Check.

Does Marlowe confront a gangster? Check.

Does Marlowe crack wise with the bulls? Check?

Double-crosses? Check.

Crooked cops? Hell yeah.

Sexual innuendo? Yep, in a 1940 sort of way.

Sexism? Yes.

Racism? Unfortunately, yes. A product of its time or not, I'm knocking the book down a couple of stars. This should have been a 5-star book, but come ON, Chandler.

Does Marlowe find the killer? YES.

This one even hits the trifecta when it comes to Chandler's characterization of women:

Gorgeous sexpot hiding a heart of ice? She's here.

The cute virgin, fiesty and puppyish? Present and accounted for.

The wretched harridan? Passed out on the bed over there.

I'm not making a great case for the Marlowe novels here. But they are simply fantastic. He's one of the great iconic private eyes, the shop-soiled Galahad. I think Anne Riordan put it best in this book when she said:

You're so marvelous... So brave, so determined and you work for so little money. Everybody bats you over the head and chokes you and smacks your jaw and fills you with morphine, but you just keep right on hitting between tackle and end until they're all worn out. What makes you so wonderful?

She answered her own question there, didn't she? But if she wanted another answer I'd tell her the plain truth: the prose makes him wonderful. But I share her wonderment. Because that's exactly how I feel about Marlowe.

Also? This book is awesome because, if for no other reason, it features a character named, "Moose Malloy." How is that not fun?
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