“Wonderful what Hollywood will do to a nobody. It will make a radiant glamour queen out of a drab little wench who ought to be ironing a truck driver’s shirts, a he-man hero with shining eyes and brilliant smile reeking of sexual charm out of some overgrown kid who was meant to go to work with a lunchbox. Out of a Texas car hop with the literacy of a character in a comic strip it will make an international courtesan, married six times to six millionaires and so blasé and decadent at the end of it that her idea of a thrill is to seduce a furniture mover in a sweaty undershirt.”
A woman from small town Kansas travels to California and hires Marlowe to track down her missing brother. In his quest to locate the man in question, Chandler will take Marlowe into the world of Hollywood and the shady characters that occupy it.
In The Little Sister, Chandler packs about ten pounds of plot into a two pound sack. As many of his fans have said, trying to follow a Marlowe novel is about as simple as reading a road map upside down and backwards. Ice picks, gunshots and fist on face violence make up the fifth installment of Chandler’s signature series and while the plot twists hit harder than a flurry of punches to the solar plexus, it’s Chandler’s writing that once again blew me away.
Not known for having a positive worldview, Chandler is increasingly bitter this time around. Briefly working as a screenwriter in Tinseltown, certain experiences soured him on the whole industry. Through Marlowe, he muses on the whole damn state of California, hitting it with stinging criticism.
“California, the department store state. The most of everything and the best of nothing.”
“I ate dinner at a place near Thousand Oaks. Bad but quick. Feed ‘em and throw ‘em out Lots of business. We can’t bother with you sitting over your second cup of coffee, mister. You’re using money space. See those people over there behind the rope They want to eat. Anyway they think they have to. God knows why they want to eat here. The could do better home out of a can.”
“They are what human beings turn into when they trade life for existence and ambition for security.”
Despite his general dislike for most of the people he meets, Marlowe spends the entire novel manipulating evidence and tipping the scales in favor of others which makes the ending all that more shocking. If you saw it coming, I’ll bake you a dozen cookies.
I’m sad to see that I’m reaching the end of my Marlowe marathon. Two more Chandler-written novels remain with arguably the best of the best on the horizon. The Little Sister may not be sitting at the top but it’s certainly a worthy piece of Marlowe legacy.