I am currently doing research for my next novel, the first installment in a private detective mystery series set in a near-future America where many laws allow citizens to file lawsuits against those who violate these statutes. In these research reports, I summarize what I’m reading and how that book helped me think about my project. In this report: The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler.
Why I Read It:
This book is the sixth of seven Chandler novels featuring private detective Philip Marlowe, and is widely considered one of Chandler’s best. I wanted to see how Marlowe and Chandler’s plots developed toward the end of the series.
What I Learned:
The basic plot points of the Marlowe novels remain the same: a wealthy client hires Marlowe for protection or to find information, somebody winds up dead, and Marlowe solves the case despite his growing disgust for lazy, rich people, corrupt cops and lawyers, and anyone else who abuses their power for personal gain. But Chandler constantly introduces wrinkles that show new sides of Marlowe or reinforce the most important aspects of his character. In The Long Goodbye, we see Marlowe befriend someone and demonstrate his personal and professional loyalty, even when it leads to his imprisonment.
My Biggest Takeaway:
Actually, two big takeaways. First, Marlowe describes himself as a romantic in the sense that he finds himself compelled to investigate cases to the bitter end and uncover the truth, no matter how ugly. These traits land him in prison and anger dangerous people, but they also make Marlowe an admirable protagonist. Second, Chandler has a tendency to start stories with two seemingly unrelated plots that eventually connect. At times, this structure can feel a little too neat. I generally prefer the more straightforward, but still nuanced, plot of The Big Sleep.
Who Would Like It:
Again, fans of character-driven detective fiction. But The Long Goodbye feels a little more ambitious than other Marlowe novels. It’s longer, offers more introspection from Marlowe and reveals more of his character than Chandler’s earlier novels.