September 19 2011

Farewell My Lovely

Farewell My Lovely by Raymond Chandler is the second Philip Marlowe novel. Chandler continues to amaze with beautiful writing. Marlowe opens the story on a missing persons case, but is rapidly sidetracked as he spots a large man entering a “colored” bar. Here is the description:

He was worth looking at. He wore a shaggy borsalino hat, a rough gray sports coat with white golf balls on it for buttons, a brown shirt, a yellow tie, pleated gray flannel slacks and alligator shoes with white explosions on the toes. From his outer breast pocket cascaded a show handkerchief of the same brilliant yellow as his tie. There were a couple of colored feathers tucked into the band of his hat, but he didn’t really need them. Even on Central Avenue, not the quietest dressed street in the world, he looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food.

The described person is one Moose Malloy and this chance encounter leads to the first plot of the story as Moose kills the owner of the bar while looking for his old girlfriend Velma. The police aren’t too keen on investigating this murder as the murdered man is black and investigating such crimes is not high on their priority list (recall this is in the 30’s). To his credit, Marlowe is not quite willing to be so casual and continues looking into Moose and Velma. He contacts the widow of the bars prior owner (the one before the murderee.) and finds a photo of Velma.
By the way, a borsalino hat is a particular type of fedora. I had to look that one up.
The second plot line appears when Marlowe gets a phone call from Lindsay Marriott. Marriott asks Marlowe to come by his house and help him out on a matter.
From here, the two plot lines twine and dance in a spiral tango. Chandler paints the story and we learn a bit more about Marlowe in the process. He meets a woman–Anne Riordan who at first seems like maybe an appropriate match for Marlowe, but as Marlowe says:

…She likes you.” [Randall]
“She’s a nice girl. Not my type.” [Marlowe]
“You don’t like them nice?” He had another cigarette going. The smoke was being fanned away from his face by his hand.
“I like smooth shiny girls, hardboiled and loaded with sin.”
“They take you to the cleaners,” Randall said indifferently.
“Sure. Where else have I ever been?”

And we learn that Marlowe is fairly well read. He quotes Shakespeare several times in the course of the investigations. We also get to see the LA and small town southern California of the 30’s in all its blowsy detail. When someone tries to tell you that morals have fallen on hard times in these modern days, just smile and tell them that morals didn’t have a dime to rub together in the good old days either.
But, with Marlowe we get a knight in much tarnished armor helping us through weather that is cold as the ashes of love. Another great read.

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Posted September 19, 2011 by user in category "Book review


  1. By Ian on

    I haven’t read this one yet. Now I’m looking forward to it even more!

    “Tarantula on angel food.” Jeepers.

  2. By EEGiorgi on

    I came back to share my favorite quote from this book (sorry, couldn’t remember it by heart the other day): “He had a smoothly husky voice, a hard Harry straining himself through a silk handkerchief.”

    I ordered my next three of his and I can’t wait until they get in the mail!

    1. By Steven Halter (Post author) on

      That one is good. There are so many I’m not sure what my favorite is:
      “You’ve been shot full of hop and kept under it until you’re as crazy as two waltzing mice. ”
      “They don’t make that kind of time in watches anyway.”
      “The smell of sage drifted up from a canyon and made me think of a dead man and a moonless sky.”
      “Shake it up and pour it,” I said. “Who put me in here, why and how? I’m in a wild mood tonight. I want to go dance in the foam. I hear the banshees calling. I haven’t shot a man in a week. Speak out, Dr. Fell. Pluck the antique viol, let the soft music float.”

      So many–very nice.


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