First read: 2001
Owned since: 2001
“The first time I laid eyes on Terry Lennox he was drunk in a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith outside the terrace of The Dancers.”
So begins the greatest American mystery novel. The Long Goodbye is a novel of midlife, an elegy for the youth of the Second World War and the promise of Los Angeles.
Philip Marlowe meets the wealthy, charming and alcoholic Terry Lennox, and agrees despite his better judgment to do him a mysterious favor: drive him to the Tijuana airport. But then Lennox's wife turns up dead at their Los Angeles home, and Lennox himself commits suicide in Mexico -- but not before sending Marlowe a cryptic message and $5,000. While Marlowe is trying to figure out what happened -- and what his responsibility was or might still be -- he takes a missing persons case for a New York publisher, looking for an author who turns up in rehab. Marlowe becomes overly involved with this writer, Roger Wade, and his wife Eileen, who wind up having their own mysterious connections to Terry Lennox.
The Long Goodbye is not a perfect novel; as always with Chandler, loose ends remain unexplained and the central coincidences of the novel require a major suspension of disbelief. But Chandler was the first and greatest author to make setting a crucial element of crime fiction. The immortal movie line, "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown," would not have been possible if Chandler hadn't showed us how the very nature of Los Angeles makes some actions possible or even likely.
This bonus Sunday post comes to you because if I leave tomorrow as scheduled, I won't have time for posting until very late tomorrow night.
But I might not leave tomorrow as scheduled.