Sunday, January 4, 2009

Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler

Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
Pocket Book 212, Copyright 1940

"I like smooth shiny girls, hardboiled and loaded with sin."

My favorite Raymond Chandler novel. And of course there is more here than Philip Marlowe trying to get a lead on where Moose Malloy is hiding out and finding what became of little Velma. I've probably read "Farewell, My Lovely" more times than any other novel. And whenever I pick it up, I discover something in it that amazes me. This time it was Marlowe's interaction with the two main cops in the story. Detective Lieutenant Nulty is a sloppy, lazy, almost unhealthy homicide cop. He doesn't even leave his office in the 77th Street Division and depends on others to provide leads and services for him. Marlowe willingly helps him out, knowing he can use Nulty's name to benefit his investigation whenever an "official" question needs to be asked. For Marlowe, throwing Nulty a bone can do him some good, in the future he may need to cash in a little credit with the Hollywood Police Department.

Randall is the Los Angeles homicide cop assigned to the Lindsay Marriott murder. A professional all the way, he suspects Marlowe is withholding from him and he warns Marlowe to stay out of it. Later, Marlowe sort of goes through the back door looking into the Marriott murder as he discovers there was a connection between Marriott and the drunken Florian hag. The next time Marlowe and Randall meet, their relationship turns more respectful and the exchange of information is mutual. Of course, Marlowe has to first go through taking his "treatment" at Dr. Sonderborg's residence. The last chapter really captures Randall showing a high regard for Marlowe, as they meet and he tells of Velma's final fate.

Chandler also has Marlowe battling his share of corrupt cops. There are the two Bay City ones who sap him and take him to Dr. Sonderberg. And the Bay City police chief is in politically with the racketeer Brunette. But then there is the ex-cop Red Norgaard who takes a great risk to ferry Marlowe to the gambling ship Montecito. He is so mysterious and likable, that Marlowe sees a bit of himself in Red. Chandler must of liked the character also because in the end he gets his job back on the police force.

Good ones or bad ones, when it came to a P.I.'s interaction with cops, no one wrote them better than Raymond Chandler. It's just another magnet the draws you into a Philip Marlowe novel.

"After a little while I felt a little better, but very little. 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."

Raymond Chandler's novels are not just enjoyable to read, they are a privilege to read.


Abe Lucas said...

Absolutely agree. I could have written your post to the letter! FML is the Chandler I read once a year and has-- for better or worse-- glamorized 1940 Los Angeles like no other novel. Though I will admit that Lady in the Lake has gained some in terms of favorite Marlowe.

Always preferred The Long Goodbye's interrogation "scene", though.

Happy New Year.

Anonymous said...

If I were backed into a corner and forced to name my favorite mystery writer it would be Raymond Chandler. I've read his novels several times and except for his last one, Playback, they are all excellent. Plus his influence on other writers is still ongoing. Chandler is the best of the best.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Love the first edition printed on the blog - I've got several editions of this book myself. The earliest being dated 1970 and showing a great bogart like image.

pattinase (abbott) said...

That cover is gorgeous. Reading the Judith Freeman book The Long Embrace right now.

OlmanFeelyus said...

You know I used to really love Chandler. Up until Westlake's Parker series (which utterly blew my mind and changed everything), he was my favorite detective author. A lot of people "in the know" seemed to speak much more highly of Hammet, with a sense that he was the true hard-boiled author of the two.

I'm finally starting to see that I may agree with that view. I think when you are younger, Chandler's rich prose and hilarious comebacks resonate more than the dry intensity of Hammett. And nothing can match Chandler's dark, misanthropic passages on normal people and their pathetic, desperate lives.

But ultimately, Marlow is a bit soft. He's always immediately falling in love with the ladies and kind of walks around acting all tough but secretly trying to do good all the time. He's a bit moralistic and it starts to grate a bit for me.

Perhaps this isn't really a criticism of Chandler as a writer and more of Marlowe as a character. He's just a bit too soft!

Anonymous said...

On the other hand some of Hammett's men are too tough. For instance the violence and killings in RED HARVEST are a bit too much, too hard boiled.

I hate to start comparing Chandler and Hammett because they are my two favorite mystery writers but I have to give the edge to Chandler.

Where you see softness in Philip Marlowe, I see a more sensitive and realistic character, more life like. Yes sometimes sentimental with women and too willing to do good but a more believable character than the tough as nails Hammett hero. I think both authors are great but have different styles within the hardboiled field.

OlmanFeelyus said...

Absolutely. They are both masters and we are blessed to have their words in our world. Ultimately, it's not an argument over which is "better" but really a question of personal preference. I think I may lean towards Hammett now because there is such a surfeit of mawkish sentimentality, that I need some extra hardness to maintain the balance!

Your comments make me think I need to reread Red Harvest. It's been quite a while.

Frank Loose said...

August ... It was a cool surprise to see Farewell, My Lovely posted on your blog this week. Just the other day i bought a new copy to read. I own the Pocketbook copy you show, and it is a great one. I found it in a used book store is some little town in South Carolina twenty years ago. The edition is a bit tender now, thus the new purchase. The new copy is next up on my To-Be-Read-Pile. It has been a decade, at least, since i last read Farewell, and i too think it is the best of the batch. If you have never seen the 1974 Farewell, My Lovely movie starring Robert Mitchum, RENT IT if you can find it. For some reason it has never been released for sale. Mitchum is superb, the story reflects the book accurately, and the score is so incredibly moody you will be transported back to 1940s LA before the first word of dialogue is spoken. And when it is spoken, it is Mitchum with terrific voice-over. Can't miss. Regarding whose better, Hammett or Chandler, The Op or Marlowe, I'm just glad we have them all!

Abe Lucas said...

Thankfully, David Shire's original score to FML is available (albeit in a LTD ED. CD) from Screen Archives Entertainment. I have a copy and it does sound great; though how Jazz became associated with Noir is a mystery...

Frank Loose said...

I have the score on a record. Remember those??? Haven't played it in decades, but i can still "hear" the opening theme song in my head.

Abe Lucas said...

Yes, I've heard of these "records"...;)

The CD is the same music you have,which includes that great faux-big band number which is playing on the radio while Mrs. Florian lies dead, and the great exchange:

Nulty: "Will ya look at those bruises."

Marlowe: "*You* look at 'em."

Frank Loose said...

Too much. I can hear the voices delivering those lines! Remember when Marlowe first visits Jess Florian's house and they're talking thru the screen door, and she doesn't invite him in. Marlowe scratches the screen with a fingernail and says: "I feel like fly out here." I recently tried to rent the movie from NetFlix, but they only offer viewing thru the computer. I wanted a DVD. Chagrin.

Anonymous said...

All film lovers should get a multi region dvd player so you are not locked in to only dvds sold in North America. For instance Farewell My Lovely is available in England for about $10 but you need a multi region player which are easy to get and cheap.

And even if you don't have such a dvd player, there are alot of VHS copies available on Several of my friends have thrown away their vcr players and video tapes which I think is a mistake. There are still movies out there that are only available on tape.

Anonymous said...

I gotta say there's about 25 wastedpages in FML; the extended and more extended bit about Marlowe getting aboard the gambling ship to carry a plot point that could've been coverd by a postage stamp. Other than that, it's prime.