The following is based on my review of Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye for Goodreads.Com:
I had read The Long Goodbye many years ago, and liked it. In the meantime, I have aged—not exactly like a fine wine, but aged nonetheless—and found myself loving Raymond Chandler’s penultimate work. I might even go so far as to say it is his masterpiece, though back then I liked The Big Sleep and Farewell My Lovely more.
This time I detected the raggedness. Chandler’s wife, Cissy, was dying and he felt more vulnerable. This is no tight Agatha Christie thriller than runs like a Swiss clockwork. Not by a long shot. It’s about a nasty, persistent evil that, once you poke it with a stick, keeps coming back to snare you and hurt you. Somehow, Chandler’s detective Marlowe walks the straight and narrow path and comes out alive at the end:
I was as hollow and empty as the spaces between the stars. When I got home I mixed a stiff one and stood by the open window in the living room and sipped it and listened to the groundswell of the traffic on Laurel Canyon Boulevard and looked at the glare of the big angry city hanging over the shoulder of the hills through which the boulevard had been cut. Far off the banshee wail of police or fire sirens rose and fell, never for very long completely silent. Twenty-four hours a day somebody is running, somebody else is trying to catch him. Out there in the night of a thousand crimes people were dying, being maimed, cut by flying glass, crushed against steering wheels or under heavy tires. People were being beaten, robbed, strangled, rape, and murdered. People were hungry, sick, bored, desperate with loneliness or remorse or fear, angry, cruel, feverish, shaken by sobs. A city no worse than others, a city rich and vigorous and full of pride, a city lost and beaten and full of emptiness.
And mind you, this is just the background in which a series of murders and/or suicides take place that call Marlowe’s actions into question and put him in personal peril, such as the time four toughs waylay him in his own house. They included the following:
A man was sitting across the room with his legs crossed and a gun resting sideways on his thigh. He looked rangy and tough and his skin had that dried-out look of people who live in sun-bleached climates. He was wearing a dark brown gabardine-type windbreaker and the zipper was open almost to his waist. He was looking at me and neither his eyes nor the gun moved. He was as calm as an adobe wall in the moonlight.
That last short sentence inspired writer Walter Mosley to begin writing his own series of detective novels featuring Easy Rawlins.
I feel I have not rendered justice to this great novel—probably because it is still working its way through my bloodstream and opening channels in my body that I did not know existed.
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