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Book Review: The Long Goodbye

The Long Goodbye (1953) finds Marlowe living in a borrowed house in Los Angeles when he meets a down and out drunk and former war hero named Terry Lennox. Marlowe strikes up a friendship with the man and one morning Marlowe is awakened to find Lennox asking to be driven to Mexico. Marlowe does this and the finds out Lennox’s wealthy wife was murdered with Lennox the prime suspect. Lennox writes out a confession and kills himself in Mexico. The cops, organized crime, and the dead woman’s father want Marlowe to forget the case, yet Marlowe feels an obligation to Lennox.

To begin with, The Long Goodbye is the longest of all Chandler novels. The same publisher did the most recent reprint of the Marlowe books, and the first five novels range from 231-292 pages. This book weighs in at 379 pages.  At this point in his career, Chandler had come to realize what people looked to Marlowe books for: the characters and the dialogue, and Marlowe telling people off. So Chandler gave us this in spades.

He gives ample time to develop the Marlowe-Lennox relationship at the start of the book and there are great Chandler characters spread throughout the book including author Roger Wade, who I can see as a self-insertion character by Chandler particularly after listening to the BBC Radio 4 play about Chandler and Hitchcock attempting to collaborate on Strangers on a Train. The book is full of rich characterization, settings, and dialogue.

The downside of the Long Goodbye is that in the midst of all that, Chandler loses the story several times. It’s hard to remember a detective novel where the detective took so little interest in solving the central mystery of the book. Marlowe literally goes weeks without doing anything and there are moments in the story where I wonder if we’re ever going to get back to the Terry Lennox case. It’s hard to care about the solution to a story when the main character doesn’t seem to.

In addition, this is a much more cynical and jaded Marlowe than prior books with his remarks that organized crime is just a cost of civilization in one of the later chapters. Marlowe seems at times to be almost exaggerated at a few times even explaining he was trying to be mysterious at one point.

I also feel the relationship between Marlowe and Linda Loring or the attempt thereof was weak and far less interesting than the flirting with romance in prior novels.

Overall, this is a still a good read and is better than The Little Sister and The High Window with so many interesting characters and settings, and some great dialogue. Still, it feels less organic and its pacing issues place it below the very best Marlowe novels in the series. For my part, I think the 1970s BBC radio adaptation with Ed Bishop is probably the best way to experience the story as it manages to preserve the heart of the story while leaving a lot of extraneous elements on the cutting room floor.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0

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EP1481: Philip Marlowe: The Indian Giver

Gerald Mohr
Marlowe investigates a case of stolen pottery and as usual someone gets killed.

Original Air Date: August 13, 1949


EP1475: Philip Marlowe: The August Lion

Gerald Mohr
A friend of Phil's who hasn't seen in six months come to Marlowe's apartment with the body of a dead woman and pleads with Marlowe to get him off for her murder.

Original Air Date: August 6, 1949

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EP1469: Philip Marlowe: Mexican Boat Ride

Gerald Mohr

Marlowe goes South of the Border when a rich man hires him to find out why his wife took a boat ride despite being deathly afraid of boats.

Original Air Date: July 30, 1949


Video Theater 060: Philip Marlowe: Murder is a Grave Affair

A young actress dies with the gas on in her room. The police think it's an accident but the girl's father and an admirer believe it's murder. Philip Marlowe (Phil Carey) investigates.

Season 1, Episode 23 (1960)

Also features Connie Hines, and William Schallert


EP1463: Philip Marlowe: The Headless Peacock

Gerald Mohr

A woman hires Marlowe to help her fiancé who has a gambling problem.

Original Air Date: July 16, 1949

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EP1451: Philip Marlowe: The Key Man

Gerald Mohr
Marlowe is hired to protect a businessman from being murdered before leaving for New York.  When the man is murdered, Marlowe has to figure out whodunit.

Original Air Date: June 25, 1949

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EP1445: Philip Marlowe: The Busy Body

Gerald Mohr
Marlowe investigates a case where a body is found and keeps disappearing.

Original Air Date: June 18, 1949

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EP1439: Philip Marlowe: The Pigeon’s Blood

Gerald Mohr

Marlowe recovered to recover rubies owned by French survivors of the Nazi occupation.

Original Air Date: June 11, 1949

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EP1433: Philip Marlowe: The Unfair Lady
Marlowe goes South of the Border to find who's behind a series of diamond thefts.

Original Air Date: June 4, 1949

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