“I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance. I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room.”
While working a missing persons case, Detective Philip Marlowe finds himself drawn into a murder investigation. Jailbird Moose Malloy knocks off the proprietor of a local watering hole in his pursuit of a gal named Velma. While assisting the cops in hunting him down, Marlowe backs off the case when he realizes he won’t be paid for his efforts. However it’s not long before another job falls in his lap when Marlowe is hired to accompany a man in a money-for-jewelry trade off. When his employer is tucked in for the big sleep, Marlowe tries to piece the crime together, taking a few lumps in the process.
As abrasive as a sheet of sandpaper coated in shattered glass, Philip Marlowe isn’t one to check his attitude at the door. He’s also an alcoholic, a racist, and unapologetically hardheaded. With all these character flaws, why is Raymond Chandler’s signature series so damn enjoyable? It probably has something to do with Chandler’s endlessly quotable prose.
The backbone of any story worth reading is the way the author’s prose plays out on the page. You could have the most exciting plot imaginable but if the writing isn’t up to snuff, it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on, but sometimes an author can be so good that the plot is almost secondary. The true joy can come from random musings about life, death and everything in between or even the exceptional way an author crafts a setting or describes a character. Raymond Chandler is one such author and while the case surrounding Farewell, My Lovely isn’t particularly outstanding, he is certainly a masterful storyteller.
Throughout the story, Chandler takes the reader in a multitude of directions and when Marlowe makes any sort of headway, a new element is introduced thus changing the case. It’s often a wonder Marlowe gets anything done when half the time he’s soaking himself in bourbon while seemingly trying to burn bridges with his smarmy attitude and general distaste for anyone he meets.
Farewell, My Lovely is an excellent novel and a more than worthy follow up to The Big Sleep. Chandler’s Philip Marlowe is one hell of an interesting character leaving me sad to know there are only six books in the series.