A Short Look at a Long Goodbye

The Long Goodbye by Ramond Chandler
The Long Goodbye by Ramond Chandler

The Long Goodbye
Raymond Chandler
Vintage Books, 1988

First Line: The first time I laid eyes on Terry Lennox he was drunk in a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith outside the terrace of the Dancers.

I am perhaps doing myself a bit of a disservice by skipping Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, the 1930 novel originally serialized in Black Mask, which even Chandler admits helped throw open the doors on the hard-boiled detective novel.   The focus of my project is on Chandler’s template for the hard-boiled detective a fact that invalidates Hammett’s Sam Spade.  As such I am starting with Raymond Chandler’s own iconic detective Phillip Marlowe.  My first exposure to Phillip Marlowe was in college where I took a class on American Crime Fiction and read the utterly fantastic The Big Sleep, probably the most well known of all the Marlowe books.  This time around I went with The Long Goodbye a slightly more twisting tale that manages to squeeze in some social commentary amidst the murder, mystery and mayhem.
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A Not So Simple Art

The Simple Art of Murder is both an essay and a collection of short stories by novelist Raymond Chandler.  As I begin to delve into my detective reading project it is the former, Chandler’s criticism of the detective genre and discussion of the nature of art in general, that is most pertinent to my own needs.  Chandler begins his essay by exclaiming that “Fiction of any form has always intended to be realistic.”  He delves rather quickly into the elements of his own genre, detective fiction, that seem to subvert fiction’s drive towards realism.  He says of detective fiction that it “….has learned nothing and forgotten nothing” and looks towards the classic authors of the British style with a harsh critical eye.  He dissects A. A. Milne’s The Red House of Mystery, lambastes the ridiculous nature of Murder on the Orient Express and, almost as an aside, comments that Sherlock Holmes is less a person and more of an idea and an attitude.  He succinctly sums up his opinion of British authors with this gem of a quote: “The English may not always be the best writers in the world, but they are incomparably the best dull writers.”

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