The long goodbye

by Raymond Chandler

Paperback, 1992




New York : Vintage Books, 1992.


Down-and-out drunk Terry Lennox has a problem- his millionaire wife is dead and he needs to get out of LA fast. So he turns to his only friend in the world- Philip Marlowe, Private Investigator. He's willing to help a man down on his luck, but later, Lennox commits suicide in Mexico and things start to turn nasty. Marlowe finds himself drawn into a sordid crowd of adulterers and alcoholics in LA's Idle Valley, where the rich are suffering one big suntanned hangover. Marlowe is sure Lennox didn't kill his wife, but how many more stiffs will turn up before he gets to the truth?

User reviews

LibraryThing member Bookmarque
I’ve attempted this book in the past and failed to engage even though I love Chandler and the Marlowe series to pieces. This time it clicked and wow, I think it might be his most personal novel in the sense of how much he evokes through Marlowe. As usual the writing is snappy, the plot is convoluted and Marlowe gets ensnared by his own emotions and sense of morality.

Here are some noteworthy gems -

“I caught the rest of it in one of those snob columns in the society section of the paper. I don’t read them often, only when I run out of things to dislike.” p 11

“Very methodical guy, Marlowe. Nothing must interfere with his coffee technique. Not even a gun in the hand of a desperate stranger.” p 19

“I puffed the cigarette. It was one of those things with filters in them. It tasted like high fog strained through cotton wool.” p 39

“And the next time I saw a polite character drunk in a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith, I would depart rapidly in several directions. There is no trap so deadly as the trap you set for yourself.” p 64

And of course, the second paragraph -
“There was a girl beside him. Her hair was a lovely shade of dark red and she had a distant smile on her lips and over her shoulders she had a blue mink that almost made the Rolls-Royce look like just another automobile. It didn’t quite. Nothing can.” p 1

It’s the longest of the Marlowe novels and the pace is less break-neck, but it still cranks along making the reader wonder how the Terry Lennox/Roger Wade situations will connect. You know they will. Readers of this type of fiction or other thrillers made after Chandler broke ground will connect the dots before he explains it, but watching Marlowe get there is half the fun. The reader doesn’t get everywhere ahead of Marlowe and his detective work, observational skills and sheer guts are spot on as usual.
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
For quite some time now, my husband had been urging me to read "hard-boiled" detective fiction. And I chose this particular book because it won an Edgar Award, and is on the list of "1001 Books you Must Read Before you Die." Well, I have to say the only reason I made it all the way to the end was because I love my husband, and wanted to give this book a fair shake. But it really wasn't my cup of tea.

Philip Marlowe is a private eye in 1940s Hollywood, California. The Long Goodbye opens with Marlowe encountering a couple outside a bar. The man is quite drunk; the woman drives off in their car, leaving the man in a pretty sad state. Marlowe takes him home, gets him sober, and is drawn into friendship with this mysterious man, Terry Lennox. They meet for drinks several times. Then one night, Lennox visits Marlowe and asks to be taken to Tijuana. His wife has just been killed and although Terry didn't commit the murder, he knows he will be implicated. Marlowe helps him get away, but Terry's story is far from over. Meanwhile, Marlowe takes up another case involving an alcoholic writer. The two cases turn out to have a connection, which is gradually revealed.

But I didn't really care, and that was my problem with this book. If there's one thing I've learned about my reading, it's that I enjoy character-driven novels. In The Long Goodbye, every single character was a stereotype. The central characters were fabulously wealthy (except for Marlowe, who still managed to move within their society with relative ease). There were a few seedy characters who acted suspiciously, just to keep the reader interested. The local police were violent, ineffetive, or both. Most characters had some level of dependency on alcohol or drugs, and associated behavioral issues. There were few women in this book, but all of them were blonde bombshells with only one real function in life.

It's a shame -- Raymond Chandler is quite famous for this type of novel, and some of the film adaptations make for interesting viewing. But I think I'll take a pass on his other books.
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LibraryThing member donaldgallinger
You don't read Raymond Chandler for the plots--you read him for the magnificent "hard boiled" prose. The Long Goodbye is probably his most complex work, full of world weary insights and a somewhat more "tender" Marlowe. The great pleasure of The Long Goodbye is seeing how the main character, Philip Marlowe, reconciles his cynical view of humanity with a genuine desire to help a few unfortunates in life. The best Marlowe...classic...… (more)
LibraryThing member ConnieJo
I followed up "The Talented Mr. Ripley" with this novel, hoping to go on a '50s noir binge. Unfortunately Raymond Chandler was less to my taste.

Though it's extremely well-constructed, I didn't like the plot that much until the twist at the very end. I guess I just wasn't connecting the pieces most of the way through, but I didn't really appreciate what was going on until the very end.

My biggest problem was probably how aggressive the characters were, though. Phillip Marlowe picked fights with everyone he ran across, and most everyone obliged him by fighting back, either verbally or physically. I just didn't understand why this was an acceptable way of getting information, or why it was necessary to fight with absolutely everyone, including a man he brushed past in a bar.

I don't know. That kind of soured it for me, I guess.
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LibraryThing member figre
My first Raymond Chandler; it will not be my last.

I was snagged with the first few paragraphs. “ …because Terry Lenox’s left foot was still dangling outside, as if he had forgotten he had one. “ “…and over her shoulders she had a blue mink that almost made the Rolls-Royce look like just another automobile. It didn’t quite. Nothing can.”

The writing is eloquent and concise. Descriptions that take you into the location without tearing you away from the story. Writing that makes the story better. And what a story. There is a lot of twisting and turning squeezed in this book. And the ending is perfect. Yes, you may get an inkling where it will wind up, but still a nice little jolt.

My first sentence says it all
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LibraryThing member john.cooper
This is a book by Raymond Chandler, which means that it is excellent. Many reviewers (and there are a lot of perceptive reviews of this book on Goodreads) believe that it's Chandler's masterpiece, but I disagree. The structure throws me. Chandler is the master of the perfect, punchy, assertive sentence, yet his hero Philip Marlowe strolls passively through hundreds of pages until the mystery is resolved, almost despite him, at the end. Marlowe is manipulated, used, beaten, even spat upon without throwing a punch. He doesn't want to be involved in what he's involved in, but he allows himself to be pushed and pulled out of vague feelings of personal obligation. One plot seems to end a third of the way through. When a new story takes its place, we wait a very long time to find out how they connect.

I love a lot of things about this novel--and make no mistake, this is a real novel, not just a pulp thriller. The heat and technicolor seediness of southern California, circa 1953, is vividly rendered. The book doesn't shy away from the ugly, which includes the easy racial slurs flung about by the hero, but neither does it make the mistake, so common to this type of fiction, of denying the existence of the beautiful. If the world looks cheap and worn through Marlowe's eyes, it's because of the part of it he makes his way through. The dialogue, of course, is a joy and endlessly quotable, as is much of the description. "I drove back to Hollywood feeling like a short length of chewed string." "There is nothing tougher than a tough Mexican, just as there is nothing gentler than a gentle Mexican, nothing more honest than an honest Mexican, and above all nothing sadder than a sad Mexican. This guy was one of the hard boys..."

I wouldn't mind reading this again, knowing more about it going in, and I'd be happy to revise my opinion. But as it stands, I prefer Chandler's books to be as compact and tightly structured as his prose. And I like Philip Marlowe a little better when he's more in charge of his own direction. This is, probably by design, a sad book at it center, lacking the exhilaration found earlier in the series.
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LibraryThing member KeishonT
The appeal of Chandler eludes me. My reading of this book was mixed bag. It was overly long and the story kind of wondered all over the place. Yet, there were moments of excellent prose and atmospheric scenes. This reading was a mixed bag for me.
LibraryThing member alexrichman
The ultimate noir novel? It's long, it's bleak, it's about power, and love, and lust, and booze, and getting beat up by cops and doing the right thing. The plot's foundations seem a little shaky: Marlowe goes on a crusade to protect a 'friend' he barely knows, but then again that's the kinda straight-up guy he is, right? Superb.… (more)
LibraryThing member lilithcat
One of the noir-est of the noir. Philip Marlowe, private detective. Lone wolf, paladin, man of honor. The usual philosophical drunks and women with "mink[s] that almost made the Rolls-Royce look like just another automobile". Crooked cops and crooks with a conscience.

Terry Lennox's very rich, very nymphomaniac wife is found dead, her head bashed in. Lennox takes it on the lam to Mexico, and then is found dead with a bullet in his brain and a confession in front of him. But did he really do it? A lot of people want Marlowe to think so, and not to look into the case. But then he gets dragged into trying to save an alcoholic, best-selling novelist, and, as with any good noir novel, there's a connection.

Also as in any good noir novel, nobody is what they seem or means what they say. Mysteries are "solved", but there are no tidy endings, no real heroes or villains. The atmosphere is all. And there is plenty of that here.
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LibraryThing member Laurenbdavis
Arguably Chandler's masterpiece. Tough, witty, poignant and smart. Okay, maybe his female characters could use just a soupcon of shading, but it's Chandler's world and he's the boss. Marlowe is a classic character, with enough complexity to spill over onto all the others. There just ain't no book like this book.
LibraryThing member JustAGirl
Sheer narrative genius (wrapped around a misogynist plot that doesn't always make a whole lot of sense as usual) from the daddy of crime fiction.
LibraryThing member lindawwilson
Raymond Chandler books were highly recommended via many sources, but I have read several and never liked any; I don't like the characters and the stories are not that intriguing.
LibraryThing member mcc89
My favorite Chandler novel so far, also the first I had ever read at that point. Somewhere someone told me to buy this, I'm glad they did.
LibraryThing member kettle666
Someone tucked a copy of this in the school library. It was a paperback, which was odd, because the library had nothing but hardbacks. I checked it out and was told it was not a school book and that someone must have placed it on the shelf mistakenly. You should not read this sort of book, said the teacher on library watch. Which was, of course, the most incentivising tag you can give a teenager. I read it and then consumed every book Chandler wrote.… (more)
LibraryThing member bigorangecat
THE Great American Novel, hands down. Poetry as fiction. Wow!
LibraryThing member seanj
I couldn't put it down. Even better than The Big Sleep, I thought.
LibraryThing member Steph78
I've never read chandler before, and picked this up without any real expectations of finding a book I would really enjoy, and I was totally blown away by the first 3rd of the book. I love the prose, the characters, the dialogue, the way it talks about corruption, ethics and honour - really interesting, with a page turning plot which kept me reading. The plot does get very convoluted as it continues and the female charcaters seem somewhat one dimensional, but i'll definitely be going back for more.… (more)
LibraryThing member Schmerguls
This 1953 novel has detective Philip Marlowe helping a guy flee after his wife is killed. It reads OK, but I did not like Marlowe--I seldom like supposed heroes who are adulterers--and the surprise ending did not surprise me, since I suspected it all along. No character in the book was overly admirable, and the book wins no prize from me. It is the fourth Chandler book I have read and I presume I will not read another.… (more)
LibraryThing member Georg.Miggel
Though Chandler is one of my favorite authors and "The Long Goodbye" is one of my favorite books I have to admit that I have never understood Marlowe and what makes him tick. He almost always does the thing I would avoid and his lack of greed and egotism makes me always feel miserable. I certainly would have taken all the money he was offered, and I certainly would have let me been seduced by the "Golden Angel" (Eileen). But how can you not adore an author who writes a c.v. like that:

"The homicide skipper this year was a Captain Gregorious, a type of copper that is getting rarer but by no means extinct, that kind that solves crimes with the bright light, the soft sap, the kick to the kidneys, the knee to the groin, the fist to the solar plexus, the night stick to the base of the spine. Six months later he was indicted for perjury before a grand jury, booted without trial, and later stamped to death by a big stallion on his ranch in Wyoming." (p. 44)
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LibraryThing member otterley
It makes me wonder who taught Chandler and Wodehouse when they were at school together! The Long Good-Bye hides a romantic heart beneath its hard boiled demeanour; the writing and characterisation is taut and vivid and the plotting clever. The story knits together cleverly, mixing reflection with action and it leaves a taste like a gimlet - Rose's lime juice only....… (more)
LibraryThing member icarusgeoff
I can't say anything about that hasn't already been said better by someone else. His style is brilliant, his plots are tight, and he's a joy to read.That being said, I can't help but think he's got some serious pent-up hostility toward blondes.
LibraryThing member IronMike
This was my first Chandler book. I was often tempted to put it aside and read something else, but I stayed with it to the end. I am left with mixed feelings. The Philip Marlowe character somehow eludes me. I can't understand the guy. His standards for accepting fees for the work her performs are so high that he always refuses payment. How does the guy survive? There is only one client in the book who is acceptably ethical to Marlowe, and he charges this client $20 and leaves it as a tip to a bartender. Any client who has the slightest character flaw encounters Marlowe's disdain, and has his money returned.
There was dialogue I truly enjoyed, the plot was interesting, and there are many good things to be said of the book. I guess I have to read more Chandler; but I won't right away.
The paperback I read was published by Pocket Books in 1964. The cover artwork is better than any of the covers shown here, in my opinion, but no credit is given in the book to the artist.
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LibraryThing member amelish
At first The Long Goodbye seemed like a far more complex book than The Big Sleep because the character of Marlowe, heartless and invincible and infallible in the latter, in the former is fleshed out with various forms of weakness (subjectively defined). These include a tendency towards the romantic, bravado and braggadocio, insatiable curiosity (the bane of many existences, not least the young elephant's), and an inability to let well alone. A sharp contrast is drawn between his masterful and knowing demeanor and his apparent standing in the world, but the very sharpness raises questions about the validity of the contrast itself. Is Marlowe a picaresque tough guy battling his way through a big cruel world with every tool he's got? Is he a blustering, bumbling, overcurious smart ass with a tendency for emotional overinvestment in his work? Is he a misunderstood hero sacrificing himself on the altar of justice? Is he playing the other characters like chess pieces? Is he clued in or clueless, or both, and if so then which is the act? Is he a self-deluded loser?

I think this ambiguity, or complexity, is deliberate on Chandler's part. You could ask the very same questions about him, and about the book, but in Marlowe's words, "it's a nice quiet way to go crazy. You don't even scream, but you come awfully close."
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LibraryThing member FMRox
First foray into Raymond Chandler wasn't very desirable. It took a very long time to read such a short novel. The main character wasn't very desirable and I certainly didn't root for him to close the case. The plot was interesting enough but the characters distracted from it so much, I didn't enjoy it. I read this book for a reading group and couldn't even finish on time to participate in the discussion. I am doubtful there will be any other Chandler novels for me.… (more)
LibraryThing member cuttoothom
Raymond Chandler is the grandpappy of hardboiled detective novels, and The Long Goodbye is a good example of just how good Detective genre stories can be.
This is my favorite of Chandler's stories, because it contains a heartfelt core that isn't necessarily present in all of the Philip Marlowe stories, as well as a good mystery and alluring writing.
For young adults, this could serve as a wonderful introduction to noir fiction and mystery as a whole.
Note: some adult content - drunkenness and seduction and the like.
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