The Long Goodbye

Suggested by Kung Fu Zu • Philip Marlowe befriends a down-on-his luck war veteran, Terry Lennox, whose very wealthy nymphomaniac wife ends up dead. Now Lennox is on the lam and the cops and a crazy gangster are after Marlowe.
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16 Responses to The Long Goodbye

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Mr. Kung, I found a free epub or mobi version of that book here. I’ve downloaded it. I’ll add it to my queue.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I hope you enjoy it. Raymond Chandler is a wonderful writer. I will do a little review of the book and include some of his witty ways of expressing himself.

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Two particular characteristics of Chandler’s writing stand out to me, the first is his ability to conjure up vivid mental images, the second is the gift of making the reader laugh or at least smile frequently throughout the book.

    In addition to his wonderful style, Chandler does not pad his writing. He may wander in and out of the main theme and take a pause from the action but in doing so he develops his characters and scene.

    His characters’ personalities are thereby constructed layer by layer until the reader has a good idea of what type of person is being dealt with. Even the secondary characters are not cut-outs and are believable.

    The book’s hero, Phillip Marlowe is a 42 year-old, private detective with years of experience. Marlowe is a tough character, but honest to the core with a strict code of honor which he will not break. He gets a lot of grief because of this.

    I would not say Marlowe is world weary, but he is somewhat fatigued. Has seen too much of human nature to be naïve. Has low expectations of mankind and is rarely proved wrong. Nevertheless, he knows that human beings are not only capable of crime, but also of kindness or at least what’s right.

    Being a somewhat cynical loner, he has developed a sharp tongue and too often says exactly what he thinks, which causes him a certain amount of grief. Marlowe can be stubborn as well. But there can be a hidden motivation behind his apparent abrasiveness. Sometimes the sharp remarks which he makes are made to provoke the truth or at least part of it. You can buy his services, but you can’t buy him. He also likes beautiful women.

    Marlowe deals with criminals, mixed up sad sacks, virginal and less than virginal women, dirty cops, honest but beleaguered policemen, millionaires, bums and heros i.e. a cross-section of the human race except for the honest middle class.

    Now as to “The Long Goodbye”. The book has none of the failings I noted in the three Avery and Blake mysteries. Marlow is never stupid and doesn’t make silly mistakes to move the plot along

    Chandler doesn’t try to send the reader off course with red-herrings etc. There is no misdirection. The reader has the same info that Marlowe has when Marlowe has it. And a sharp observer will be led to the truth if he pays attention. I had a sense of where things were going to end up, long before the end. But I wanted to continue reading not only to be sure of what happened but also to enjoy the quality of Chandler’s writing.

    I won’t tell you anything else about the book. If the above information doesn’t entice you to pick up the book and dig into it, then you will be the one missing out on an excellent read.


  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Here are some of the wonderfully descriptive phrases Chandler comes up with.

    When talking about a girl who was not pleased to see some man.

    “The girl gave him a look which ought to have stuck at least four inches out of his back.”

    When describing how a girl leaves Marlow.

    “She slid away from him along the seat but her voice slid away a lot farther than that. “

    A great description of a woman with some less than attractive manners.

    “She opened a mouth like a firebucket and laughed. That terminated my interest in her. I couldn’t hear the laugh but the hole in her face when she unzipped her teeth was all I needed.”

    When a beauty walks into the place.

    “And right then a dream walked in.” It seemed to me for an instant that there was no sound in the bar, ….and it was like just after the conductor taps on his music stand and raises his arms and holds them poised.”

    When writing about the way some stunning women can affect men.

    “She gave him some money and a lovely smile and he looked as if he had shaken hands with God.”

    About the same stunning woman.

    “Please don’t get up,” she said in a voice like the stuff they use to line summer clouds with.”

    I will include a few more later.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      “She slid away from him along the seat but her voice slid away a lot farther than that. “

      One of the joys of reading is running across these kinds of rhetorical illuminations. You can no more exactly describe physical reality through words than you can describe the taste of an orange through words. It’s all analogous to one degree or another. But you can make use of memories and experience. Very skilled writing can do it with an economy of words.

      In the above we get that total picture of some gal sitting next to a Harvey Weinstein-like character. The “dreamed walked in” description is excellent as well. The cloud one may be a bit too self-consciously constructed, but I could judge that fairly only in context.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        I think all of the phrases are even more powerful in their full context, but I want people to read the book and find out for themselves.

        Here are a few more.

        When Marlowe talks about going to a wealthy client’s home.

        “I belonged in Idle Valley like a pearl onion on a banana split.”

        When talking about boredom.

        “An hour crawled by like a sick cockroach.”

        Emphasizing a prospective client’s strength.

        “I’ll twist her goddam neck if I catch her,” he said, and I didn’t doubt he could have done it. He could have twisted the hind leg off of an elephant.”

        How a lawyer or cop, I don’t recall which, looked at him.

        “He looked at me like an entomologist looking at a beetle.”

        Some sound like they were written yesterday by acute observers of today’s social scene.

        “There is something compulsive about a telephone. The gadget-ridden man of our age loves it, loathes it, and is afraid of it. But he always treats it with respect, even when he is drunk. The telephone is a fetish.”

        Wade says, “The queer is the artistic arbiter of our age, chum. The pervert is the top guy now.”

        When describing a lawyers office, he closes with,

        “It was an office no decorator had had a chance to pansy up.”

        And finally, somethings never change.

        As he parts ways with a woman.

        “Goodbye, Linda. I hope you find what you want.” “Goodbye,” she said coldly. “I always find what I want. But when I find it, I don’t want it any more. “

        There are many more, but I will let you search them out for yourself.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Love the goodbye and decorator quotes. Good stuff. Likely would be written by no one today.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Especially the “pansy up”. Homosexuality wasn’t quite so acceptable in those days, and certainly not above criticism and mockery.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Feel free to post more. One of the things I’ve realized is that the four or five books that I’ve read lately, although good, we’re not highlightable. Some books I read are just full of passages that I’ve highlighted because they are memorable. Others are just competent but not particularly artful. Similes and analogies, and other literary tools, are not easy and they certainly tend to be time-consuming to construct.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            When talking about a female tease,

            “Because the headache will always be there, a weapon that never wears out and is as deadly as the bravo’s rapier or Lucrezia’s poison vial.”

            When writing about a game of chess, (Marlowe likes to replay old classic chess matches by himself)

            “a battle without armor, a war without blood, and as elaborate a waste of human intelligence as you could find anywhere outside an advertising agency.”

            The comments of the powerful millionaire,

            “You can’t expect quality from people whose lives are a subjection to a lack of quality. You can’t have quality with mass production. You don’t want it because it lasts too long. So you substitute styling, which is a commercial swindle intended to produce artificial obsolescence.”

            American taste in food doesn’t seem to have improved,

            “Americans will eat anything if it is toasted and held together with a couple of toothpicks and has lettuce sticking out of the sides, preferably a little wilted.”

            Marlowe’s observations about the futility of trying to learn how some people end up so pitifully.

            “You would never know how he got that way because even if he told you it would not be the truth. At the very best a distorted memory of the truth as he knew it. There is a sad man like that in every quiet bar in the world.”

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Style as planned obsolescence is a very deep thought. It rings true. The ad agency quip is funny because it’s certainly true. A beautiful pathetic comment about the pitiful that is particularly well crafted.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              Planned obselescence became a major concern in the 1950s, especially in automobiles. I think the reason for it was that as people began trading in their cars after a few years, guaranteeing that parts would continue to function did the manufacturers little or no good. I seem to recall that this came up in a short story by another mystery writer — John D. MacDonald’s “The Hangover” (which was made into an Alfred Hitchcock episode).

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Me thinks there has been more than one manager looking over the shoulder of an engineering draftsman saying, “Don’t make that part so strong. We need it to break over time so that we can sell more of them.”

                The reality is that when things break too easily, word gets around and companies loose customers. But there are always design constraints. To build a widget that lasts 200 years could be done but who could afford to buy it other than NASA?

                So there are always trade-offs to be made. Another clear factor is that back in the 1890’s to the 1940’s or so, most items were relatively simple mechanically, many being made of huge chunks of cast iron. You can still find these devices in old barns or perhaps turning up a time or two at a rural garage sale.

                Here’s an antique apple corer, for example. What’s to wear out? That thing is as fragile as a hunk of iron, which it most likely is.

                There are always the conspiracy theories of the engine that gets 200 mpg that Detroit bought up all the patents for because it would somehow put them out of business (or put the oil companies out of business). No doubt, like the manager who tells his engineer to make something weaker so he can sell next year’s model, I’ll bet there is a case or two of something like this happening.

                One of these conspiracy theories has long been told of the light bulb, that GE or whomever knows how to make one that last nearly forever but doesn’t do so because it would be bad for business. Again, who knows? But what we do know is that the modern equivalent has emerged: the LED bulb. It lasts a long time and uses very little energy. Did someone find a way to break the iron grip of incandescent (or even fluorescent) light bulb manufacturers or did the technology and/or market simply advance to the point where it was feasible?

                Costs tend to drive the market much more than conspiracy theories. If gas was 32 cents a gallon, would automobile designers worry about streamlining (absent mpg mandates, of course, which might not exist as well)? If electricity was 1/4 the cost it is now, would anyone worry about replacing safe, pleasing, incandescent bulbs with the toxic, sickly-green fluorescent ones? (Thankfully LEDs are putting those awful fluorescents out of business slowly but surely.)

                So hyperbole is a wonderful component of effective similes, metaphors, and analogies. And although there is great economic usefulness in the intelligence put to use at an advertising agency, I think in this case Raymond Chandler is literally correct: It is a waste of human intelligence (and creativity). Perhaps this wasn’t once so when David Olgivy was writing the famous Rolls-Royce ad with the headline, “At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.”

                And apparently that wasn’t hyperbole. Back in the days when there was more to putting together an advertisement than showing white males as vulgar and stupid, advertisers such as Olgilvy used to do research. Instead of just throwing a dumb blond across the hood of the car, he actually talked to Rolls-Royce engineers, studied plans of the car, and, of course, spent a good deal of time driving around in the car. And then he noticed something about it that went straight to telling the story of the quality of the car: He really could hear the clock ticking when the car was driving at 60 mph.

                Perhaps the clock was just too damn loud. But it was an effective means of conveying the idea of quality, and one based not on hyperbole or mere image but on creative rhetorical imagery.

                Raymond Chandler clearly comes before our modern time before stupidity, vulgarity, and artlessness became the norm. You can see it in his writing.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                I hadn’t heard of that Rolls Royce ad. It’s certainly very clever, since an electric clock would be less noisy than a manual one. Of course, in Europe (including England) the consumers didn’t trade cars in so often.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Mr. Kung, I did happen to happen upon nice simile from “The Devil’s Feast”. Avery has joined some fellows luncheoning in the Reform Club’s “Coffee Room”:

    Percy, who periodically patrolled the Coffee Room, came to carve their beef, a great roast of which rolled up on a silver platter, his knife sliding through the meat like a diver penetrating water.”

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Not bad. I recall that Percy was the one everyone deferred to when it came to carving meat.

      That scene made me think of Simpson’s in the Strand, a restaurant famous for its roast meats including beef, ham and duck. My wife didn’t like it so much as the duck was a bit dry. I liked the roast beef, but everything else was middling.

      However, I did love the atmosphere of the place. The ham served in the Grill Room at the old Strand Hotel was better.

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