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?
Raymond Chandler was born in Chicago in 1888 and moved to England with his family when he was twelve. He attended Dulwich College, Alma Mater to some of the twentieth century’s most renowned writers. Returning to America in 1912, he settled in California, worked in a number of jobs, and later married. It was during the Depression era that he seriously turned his hand to writing and his first published story appeared in the pulp magazine Black Mask in 1933, followed six years later by his first novel.
The Big Sleep introduced the world to Philip Marlowe, the often imitated but never-bettered hard-boiled private investigator. It is in Marlowe’s long shadow that every fictional detective must stand – and under the influence of Raymond Chandler’s addictive prose that every crime author must write.
©1953 Raymond Chandler (P)2014 Audible, Ltd.
"Anything Chandler writes about grips the mind from the first sentence." (Daily Telegraph)
"One of the greatest crime writers, who set standards others still try to attain" (Sunday Times)
"Chandler is an original stylist, creator of a character as immortal as Sherlock Holmes." (Anthony Burgess)
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"I first read The Long Goodbye over 50 years ago"
Raymond Chandler was one of my favorite authors when I was a young man. Reading the book again after so long is fascinating and fun. In retrospect it now seems that the Phillip Marlowe crime mysteries all followed a formula; reading one was similar to reading all. I'm less enthralled with The Long Goodbye than I was when I first read it, but it is still excellent crime fiction.
There have been some reviews here that have been critical of Ray Porter, the narrator. I disagree! Porter, I believe, narrated the book just as Chandler would have wanted. The book is written in Marlowe's first person. Porter uses the voice that I imagine Marlowe would have had.
Comparing Chandler to modern crime fiction writers is difficult. Michael Connelly and his Harry Bosch character come to mind, but that is probably because Bosch and Marlowe cover the same geographic territory.
"Both the burn and the bush"
Labels like genius and masterpiece get thrown around a lot in the arts. Certain writers are deemed to be brilliant and yet their stars fade quickly. Their notable books are soon forgotten, misplaced, unread and eventually pulped. Other writers seem to have the opposite trajectory. They are viewed as pulp or genre writers, but over time they seem to transcend the genre and even seem to dance on the graves of labels. They are iconic. Raymond Chandler is one of those later writers.
He is one of the Holy Trinity of detective novelists (along with Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain). These are the men who built the hard-boiled noir house that everyone else lives in. He is a god and a poet. His dialogue seems to have just fallen directly from the swollen lips of a trash-talking demiurge. His novels are both the burn and the bush. His prose is both the wilderness and the mountain. He can kill-off the Alpha and seduce the Omega before you recognize your own face in the cracked mirror.
I can't think of a modern writer of detective or crime fiction that shouldn't be paying Chander's heirs some form of rent. I can't imagine a writer who wants to include a gun and a woman and a detective in a novel NOT consulting Chandler's novels for hints of inspiration. Obviously, I adore the genre and the writer, but even if I work hard to remove my own biases it is difficult to walk away from 'The Long Goodbye' without recognizing what a gift was thrown at our underserving, flat feet.
"Philip Marlowe and the idle rich"
This is the sixth Philip Marlowe novel, but my first. Striking, compared to more contemporary mystery series I have read, I never got the sense that the series had accumulated a lot of cruft in the form of secondary characters or events that long-time readers are expected to be familiar with. I don't know if some of the cops and other characters Marlowe encountered in The Long Goodbye appeared in previous novels, but this could just as easily have been Marlowe's first appearance.
The Long Goodbye starts as two unrelated cases that naturally converge. First, a rich drinking buddy of Marlowe's gets in some trouble involving his wife, the trouble being that his wife has been bludgeoned to death. Marlowe doesn't believe his friend did it, and helps him get to Mexico. This lands him in all kinds of trouble, with everyone from the cops to hoodlums to the dead woman's rich father either working him over or threatening to work him over. They want to pin it on her husband, and they want to pin Marlowe as an accessory, and they certainly don't want him poking around and questioning the narrative.
Marlowe guts it out, as tough noir detectives do, is released from jail, shrugs off the various threats and beatings, and then gets asked by a New York publisher to investigate what's bothering their biggest cash cow, a best-selling writer of schlocky historical romances. The author lives in idle seclusion in an exclusive enclave for the rich called Idle Valley, where he seems to be drinking himself to death, and going into alcohol blackouts in which he allegedly threw his wife down some stairs.
Marlowe doesn't take this story at face value either, and continues to get threatened, cajoled, and seduced by various parties, none of whom really want him to uncover the truth.
The Long Goodbye is full of gangsters, crooked cops, tough guys, and hot blondes, but what made the book was Marlowe's stoic, principled, noble-in-spite-of-himself attitude, and Chandler's writing.
I really liked this book. I expected it to be dated and hoary with old detective tropes, but the plot veered and swerved between lively characters, Marlowe was a stand-up guy who makes you understand why everyone wanted to be Bogey back in the day, and I suspect that like many authors who insert a tormented author into the plot, Raymond Chandler was putting more than a bit of himself into the alcoholic writer Roger Wade, who has married a stunningly beautiful wife, makes huge amounts of money, and feels unworthy and not living up to his talent.
A great read, which makes me want to go back and start with The Big Sleep.
"Porter brings a subtle drama to The Long Goodbye"
I will absolutely listen to this again. First it is Chandler's most complex and involved plot offering the reader/listener much to consider. Chandler's thoughts on law enforcement and the part wealth and power play as to what gets investigated are clearer today than they were when he wrote this. Secondly, Porter's subtle depictions of the various characters offer an element of realism to this performance I don't often encounter. This was a hard story to stop listening to. It's Chandler's longest book and I listened to the entire thing in 2 days.
The Long Goodbye appears to be two plots which initially seem to be unconnected. Only as Marlowe begins to think things through do the connections appear. The characters are vivid. Only Candy is a flat character and that is "flat" in a good way, like Odd Job or Uriah Heap. The rest of the cast are very complex, well constructed people who behave in unexpected ways that are consistent with the problems they face. Bernie Ohls is the analyst of the tale. When he shows up you know you are in for an explanation of what Chandler really means by this story. Roger Wade talks and thinks like a writer. I suspect a lot of his problems were those that Chandler himself faced in writing this book.
Frequently several characters appear in a conversation in this book. Porter makes a clear distinction between every character and he does it so subtly it's as though different people are speaking. His performance could not be better.
Chandler's use of language is something his contemporaries try to imitate and in this respect he's in top form in The Long Goodbye. Lawyer Endicott and Detective Ohls offer several comments on the philosophy of law and how law enforcement works that have stayed with me. Marlowe's own assessment of the various types of blond is very funny and cynical.
Marlowe's reluctance to take either sex or money from anyone leaves one wondering, as several characters ask, what does he live on? In many respects Marlowe is TOO noble. In this book he is several times in grave danger on the behalf of his clients and yet he refuses payment and in one final gesture he returns payment every dollar of which he earned and more. Is being a private detective just a hobby for this guy? Marlowe's altruism is the one false note in this otherwise thinking person's mystery.
I think it was the narration; monotonous . I just could not stay with the story.
Philip Marlowe, geez, I can't believe I'm giving him a tentative review. Mr. Chandler forgive me.
Overall, I just could not get with the flow. Noir gods, I beg your pardon.
"Hooray for unabridged!"
I had listened to the first Marlowe book as read by Elliot Gould, which I liked, but the rest of his readings were abridged, so I went on to read the remaining books every so often in print. When I found out that Audible had recently produced the series in unabridged format, I bought this one, read by Ray Porter. Narration isn't as wisecrack-y as Gould's, but for this title that's probably better.
Here, Marlowe assigns himself to the case, based upon a conviction that the official story is a "neat" cover-up placing blame on a dead acquaintance of his. Lots of twists and turns to get to the surprise ending proving him right (hardly a spoiler there). A warning that the book is l-o-n-g, by the 2/3 point I was losing interest fast in the convoluted tale. Also, there's still a fair amount of violence (along with the racism and homophobia). Still, it shows a softer side of our hero in terms of loyalty.
Porter's narration is worth springing for, even if your library has copies of the abridged series.
"Thank God Almighty, Unabridged At Last!"
The glory and charm of The Long Goodbye is not simply its immortal character but the lush textures of his world, the intriguing intricacies, and the superbly written, imaginative dialog and descriptions, both of which suffer from abridgment. Now, finally, everything is here. Every character, every comparison, every wry observation. Thanks to all for making this happen.
"Not as cliched as I expected"
I was worried that some of the "hard boiled" noir detective language would seem cliched, but I think the narration helped with that. While I originally thought Ray Porter's narration was too light and casual for a a character like Philip Marlowe, in the end I think that interpretation saved this audiobook from sounding like a cliched comic.
While the character of Philip Marlowe was great and I can see why he became a classic, the actual story of the book was a little to convoluted and impracticably complex. I thought it would have ended an hour plus before it did, but the denouement seemed to go on and on.
"My First Noir Story"
I would. It was a great story with a lot of twists and turns.
I'd be spoiling you if I told you that.
There is something special about his narration...
"You can't run away from everything..."
"The Long Long Long Goodbye"
He had a face like a collapsed lung... just one of the many hard hitting cracks from Phillip Marlowe. Interesting story but feels like two book spliced together. My interested remained to the end and I rather enjoyed the weaving together of the pieces. I thought the acting was well done (although I would prefer a real female voice actor for the female parts). There were a handle of splices that felt rushed in post production and didn't match the cadence but they are minor. Recommended.
"The Perfect Audiobook"
I can easily imagine listening to this again in a year or so. The narrator's voice is perfect for the story: he never puts a foot wrong. He combines reading with acting in a way that builds suspense and drama into the story.
The description of his first encounter with the various femmes fatales - always Marlowe's Achilles heel. On the one hand, he knows he's being dazed by the staggering good looks of a beautiful and well groomed woman, but on the other, he's helpless to resist the impulse to come to her rescue, however suspicious he is.
The hero. He's a baffling mixture of wise-cracking, self-sabotaging loser and noble loner. You keep wanting to take him by the scruff of the neck and say FOR GOD'S SAKE GET A BUSINESS MANAGER!
Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. I loved eking it out over the drives to and from work every day.
As far as portrayals of Marlowe go, Ray Porter is to audiobooks what Bogart is to the big screen: it's hard to imagine anyone doing it better.
"Hard to find a better crime fiction audiobook"
Ray Porter was a terrific narrator.
This is a classic of detective fiction. A seemingly simple story which reveals layers of intrigue it features Chandler's wit, faux cynicism and understanding of what makes people tick throughout. It is eminently quotable.
Ray Porter can represent a number of characters distinctively. As the voice of Marlowe, he is just about perfect.
No, its too long for that and you really need to concentrate on Chandler's words.
There were a couple of points where Ray Porter has obviously been asked to over-dub a line. When this happened he seemed to us a different voice for the character than for the rest of the speech.
Good story, great narration. Chandler is the master of this genre. 15 words are a lot, she said through a cloud of Russian cigarette smoke.
I love this book so much, but this recording has frequent cuts from a different narrator inserted throughout. Distracting...
"Enduring Quality. "
I really enjoyed this book. Both the story and the performance of the narrator, and would wholeheartedly recommend it. Don't make the mistake of assuming that because this is a detective story written 64 years ago, that it will be in some way inferior or badly dated. It's not. It is of course of it's time, but that doesn't lessen it's power. It is very well written, with a sophisticated and an intelligent plot that both keeps the reader engaged and guessing. A true classic.
Two for the price of one. Tense, funny and smooth. Narration helps the story skip along at a right old pace.
Great story - wonderful Chandler staccato sentences - amazing range of voices from the reader. I look forward to my next Chandler novel.
"Classic noir - long haul"
Good description, characters, dialogue, ambience. Great fun but a long haul to the conclusion. I'm still not sure the payoff was satisfactory. But the writing is strong all the way through. Great slice of its time. Bring on the coffee, smokes and gimlets.
"Come on in cheapy…"
Great piece of noir. Adored by the whole family from aged 4 to 44. Griping story with fabulous dialogue. Only disappointment were the the occasional clunky edit where actors voice changes disconcertingly. Female characters also nowhere near as convincing. I'm looking forward to the next one and a long car journey.
"" ... a magazine with a Martian on the cover""
He catches the world-weariness of Raymond Chandler's detective-narrator.
Coming again to “The Long Goodbye” after first reading it in the late 1960s and rating it very highly, I think I have come to a more balanced conclusion. I still like it and it seems the least generic of Chandler’s novels, though that’s not necessarily an endorsement. Now, it seems to me, the extreme degree of self-consciousness in this late (1953) novel by Chandler is such that it really did need Robert Altman’s 1973 film and its dramatically changed ending to prevent Philip Marlowe’s honour-code toppling over into self-parody. Neither Marlowe’s obstinate belief in his dead friend, Terry Lennox, nor his eventual sympathy for the alcoholic writer, Roger Wade, in the parallel plot would have survived in the wise-cracking world of “The Big Sleep” (1939).
What “The Long Goodbye” lacks in credible plot and critical distance on Marlowe – the two shortcomings are connected -- it mostly makes up for in rich and full descriptions of cars, drinks, guns, clothes, and activities, for instance, making coffee. It is full of quick-fire sayings that are more self-consciously literary than realistic, street-language. In other words, the novel is quite a stylistic performance. There are, as well, plenty of intriguing topical references to freeways, gated communities, interior décor, anti-communism, and paranoia: "Ah, well," he said, and stuck a magazine with a Martian on the cover behind his mirror ... ."
Which isn’t to say that Marlowe’s increasing world-weariness isn’t important; just, not as important to warrant as the reputation that “The Long Goodbye” has attained over the years.
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