November 28 2011

The Little Sister

The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler is the fifth in the Philip Marlowe series and starts with the following:

The pebbled glass door panel is lettered in flaked black paint: “Philip Marlowe…Investigations.” It is a reasonably shabby door at the end of a reasonably shabby corridor in the sort of building that was new about the year the all-tile bathroom became the basis of civilization.

Marlowe seems to be feeling a bit tired and shabby himself. This could be a reflection of Chandler feeling down himself from dealing with the care of his ailing wife and having to deal with Hollywood.
The titular character, Orfamay Quest phones Marlowe in an attempt to persuade him to search for her brother Orrin. Orrin had moved to nearby Bay City (probably a bad sign) and has stopped writing letters home. Orfamay doesn’t offer much money and Marlowe doesn’t offer much hope but he starts the search and starts finding more than Orfamay may have thought he would.
The search leads Marlowe into Hollywood and Chandler gives Marlowe rein to vent a bit:

California – the most of everything and the best of nothing. I smelled Los Angeles before I got to it. It smelled stale and old like a living-room that had been closed too long. More wind-blown hair and sunglasses and attitudes and pseudo-refined voices and water-front morals.

Marlowe follows the threads of leads where they go. That is sometimes quite different than where those who hire Marlowe might want them to go.

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Posted November 28, 2011 by user in category "Book review


    1. By Steven Halter (Post author) on

      The more things change, the more they remain the same. Large parts of the Marlowe books remain pretty current even after 50 odd years.

  1. By Ian on

    I really enjoyed this one. I mean, I enjoy all the Marlowe novels, but this one stood out for me.

    But it never occurred to me there was some veiled commentary going on about Chandler’s relationship to Hollywood. Totally plausible, though. I didn’t realize he was caring for an ailing wife, too.

  2. By EEGiorgi on

    Chandler is very ironic with his fellow Angelinos. Also, he was British born, and I think it comes through his prose and sense of irony. And again, it’s stunning how much of it is still actual about the people and the mentality there — it just grew larger since Chandler lived there. True crime author Miles Corwin noticed it too in his book The Killing Season.

    Anyways, I love LA. 🙂

    1. By Steven Halter (Post author) on

      I think Chandler was a very astute judge of character. Also, other than superficialities like slang and tech, people really don’t change much through time. You can see that when reading Roman history also. Cicero and Pliny are complaining about many of the same things we see today.
      I’ve added that “The Killing Season” to my to-read list.

  3. By EEGiorgi on

    I actually like Homicide Special better by the same author (again, if you like detective stories and true crime).

    Hats off to you for reading Pliny and Cicero! I agree that they’re very actual, but then again, I’m Italian and with all the mess happening in our country… I actually think Cicero’s times were the glorious days, and I should think of my country as it was back then, not now… But that’s another story! 😉

    1. By Steven Halter (Post author) on

      I’ll have to put Homicide Special on my list also.

      I had a history minor (I still do I guess) and my antiquities professor always stressed reading the source documents (or at least good translations.) I’ve always found it interesting how many speeches and political problems from then are reflected currently.

      We’re planning a trip to Rome next year.


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