With each novel I read, I become more and more a fan of Raymond Chandler. He has such a great way with words, his character descriptions are brilliant, and his novels are a blast to read.
I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.
Writing a synopsis of one of these novels is tough. The plots tend to twist all over and are difficult to keep track of, but this one begins with the our detective Philip Marlowe being hired by a rich dying man to find a blackmailer. As with all of these novels, the investigation leads to much more than that (including pornography, which is fun in a 30’s novel).
This is the first Philip Marlowe novel, but it interestingly feels like it could be any book in the series. None of the novels I had previously read started with a real introduction to the character or any backstory at all, and I always thought that was because I was in the middle of the series, but this novel did the same thing. We’re given the bare basics and you learn about the character through his actions and dialogue, which is great. He isn’t the most complex character in fiction, but it’s nice that you get to be surprised by his actions occasionally. Not in a ‘this is out of character’ way, but in a ‘oh, that’s the kind of person he is’ way.
As honest as you can expect a man to be in a world where its going out of style.
There are some issues, of course. Chandler’s writing doesn’t really have a lot of emotional depth, and at times the plot seems a bit unstructured, so you really have to be taken in by the wit and fun writing.
This also has a gay character that is spoken to in a pretty abusive way. In reading a lot of classics, I’ve become somewhat used to the casual racist terms, prejudice, and misogyny that can be attributed to being a reflection of the those times, but Philip Marlowe was openly hostile to the character in a way that was a little gross to read.
Other than that scene, the book was a fun read. The writing did feel a bit less developed than his later books, but still worth reading.