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Literature / The Long Goodbye

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[I am] a romantic, Bernie. I hear voices crying in the night and I go see what's the matter. You don't make a dime that way. You got sense, you shut your windows and turn up more sound on the TV set. Or you shove down on the gas and get far away from there.

The Long Goodbye is a 1953 detective novel by Raymond Chandler, his sixth featuring the private detective Philip Marlowe.

Marlowe's drinking buddy Terry Lennox flees to Mexico, leaving behind a dead wife and a lot of questions. Marlowe attempts to answer the questions, even though nobody wants him to and despite news coming from Mexico that anything he finds will be too late to help Terry, who has committed suicide. He also takes on a case involving Roger Wade, a bestselling novelist with a drinking problem. Only at the end of the novel is Marlowe finally able to say a proper goodbye to the friend he's lost.

In 1954, the novel was adapted as an episode of the Genre Anthology series Climax!; Marlowe was played by Dick Powell, who had played Marlowe before in the film Murder, My Sweet. A film adaptation, also called The Long Goodbye,note  was released in 1973.

The first time I laid eyes on Terry Lennox he was drunk in a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith outside the terrace of The Dancers. The parking lot attendant had brought the car out and he was still holding the door open because Terry Lennox's left foot was still dangling outside, as if he had forgotten he had one. He had a young-looking face but his hair was bone white. You could tell by his eyes that he was plastered to the hairline, but otherwise he looked like any other nice young guy in a dinner jacket who had been spending too much money in a joint that exists for that purpose and for no other.

This novel contains examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Roger Wade, and Terry Lennox. Both are, interestingly, based on aspects of Chandler himself. Marlowe himself would be considered an alcoholic by today's standards.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Marlowe and Linda Loring.
  • Bluff the Impostor: When a woman is giving a confession that Marlowe doubts, she talks of dumping a suitcase full of incriminating evidence in a reservoir and Marlowe asks her how she got it over the fence. She blusters about adrenaline and then Marlowe reveals that there is no fence. After she breaks down he admits that he's never been there and really doesn't know about fence or no fence. He just thought she was lying.
  • Chandler's Law: As usual when Chandler himself used it, done with a twist. The fourth chapter ends with Marlowe answering his door to find a man standing there holding a gun — but the next chapter immediately reveals that it's Lennox, who's come to him for help, and just happens to have the gun for self-protection.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Eddie, the cowboy cosplayer who is under Dr. Verringer's care.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The Dancers, the club where the opening scene takes place, was also featured in The Little Sister.
    • The Wades live in Idle Valley, an exclusive neighborhood that Marlowe previously visited as part of his investigation in The High Window. He comments on how it's changed in the years since.
  • Cool Car: Sylvia Lennox's Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith in the opening chapter.
    Her hair was a lovely shade of dark red and she had a distant smile on her lips and over her shoulders she had a blue mink that almost made the Rolls-Royce look like just another automobile. It didn't quite. Nothing can.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Mr. Loring seems to suspect everyone with a Y chromosome of trying to sleep with Linda.
  • Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit: Discussed. After the news comes through that Lennox committed suicide after writing a confession to his wife's murder, Marlowe considers the possibility that he was murdered so that everything could be blamed on him.
    A dead man is the best fall guy in the world. He never talks back.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Marlowe.
  • Death Faked for You: Terry Lennox's death wasn't a suicide — because he never died at all. His death was faked by a few gangster friends.
  • Disease Bleach: One of the first things that Marlowe notices about Terry Lennox is that although he's still quite young his hair is entirely white. Later, a character who knew Lennox before the War tells Marlowe that his hair wasn't white then, with the implication that it's a mark of his traumatic experiences during the War.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Terry Lennox apparently commits suicide after being accused of his wife's murder.
    • The real murderer commits suicide after Marlowe makes it clear that he's figured out what really happened.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: When Marlowe first spots Eileen Wade, his narration enters a long excursus about how beautiful she is.
  • Femme Fatale: Eileen Wade. Played with a twist — she at first appears to be a Damsel in Distress who needs protection from her husband. Marlowe doesn't totally buy it, but is attracted to her anyway. She turns out to be quite manipulative and has a dark past.
  • Glove Slap: At a cocktail party, Dr Loring slaps Roger Wade in the face with one of his dress gloves after accusing him of sleeping with Mrs Loring. Wade asks mockingly if he's being challenged to a duel, and that's the end of it, with everyone present seeming to feel that Loring's gesture was overly melodramatic and with nothing to back it up.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Marlowe. By this point in the series, he's positively acidic.
  • Lemony Narrator: Marlowe both unconventionally describes people and isn't above Leaning on the Fourth Wall.
  • Light Feminine Dark Feminine: Eileen Wade and Linda Loring respectively, particularly regarding the contrast in their introductions, plus Linda's openly wry personality.
  • MacGuffin: Terry Lennox leaves Marlowe with a $5,000 bill as payment for helping him get out of the country. Marlowe, believing he hasn't earned the sum of cash, spends the entire plot refusing to spend it. Its only significant uses are: to involve Marlowe in the second case; and so Marlowe can pay it back to Lennox, giving them an excuse to meet up again in the conclusion.
  • Never Suicide: The novel features three suicides, and only the last — the murderer committing suicide to avoid arrest and imprisonment after being confronted by Marlowe — is what it appears to be. Roger Wade's apparent suicide was the murderer cleaning up a loose end. Terry Lennox's apparent suicide was actually faked so he could start over in Mexico under a new name.
  • Obfuscating Postmortem Wounds: When Sylvia Lennox is murdered, it's widely reported that she was bludgeoned to death with a small bronze statue, brutally enough to leave her face nearly unrecognizable. Only those directly working on the investigation know that she was actually shot in the head (with her own automatic handgun) and then bludgeoned postmortem to conceal the bullet wound.
  • Official Couple: Marlowe and Linda Loring. Chandler specifically created the character to be the perfect match for a man like Marlowe (a sort of "Princess In Sour Dress" to his Knight in Sour Armor). Appropriately enough, she's the first woman we ever "see" Marlowe in bed with.
  • Physical Scars, Psychological Scars: Terry Lennox's experiences in World War 2 left him with physical scars (including some on his face, where he had to have reconstructive surgery after a serious injury) and significant mental changes.
  • Private Detective: Marlowe.
  • Private Eye Monologue
  • Rich Boredom: A problem afflicting the social set that includes Sylvia Lennox, the Lorings, and the Wades. A visitor from New York describes them as "one great big suntanned hangover". Terry Lennox says much the same, at greater length.
    Terry Lennox: They say the rich can always protect themselves, and that in their world it is always summer. I've lived with them, and they are bored and lonely people.
  • Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: The first time Marlowe sees Lennox, Lennox is so plastered he could not get into a Rolls-Royce. The attendant at The Dancers is not impressed.
    At The Dancers they get the sort of people that disillusion you about what a lot of golfing money can do for the personality.
  • Run for the Border: Terry Lennox flees to Mexico, apparently to escape capture for a crime he's committed. Marlowe doesn't quite buy it.
  • Self-Deprecation: Terry Lennox and Roger Wade are both based on different elements of Chandler's own life and personality. Neither is depicted as a particularly admirable person.
  • Shout-Out: A drunk woman at a cocktail party quotes some of Christopher Marlowe's poetry (specifically, the invocation of Helen from Doctor Faustus) at Marlowe after learning his name.
  • Spirited Young Lady: Linda Loring is a refined, dignified heiress who matches Marlowe's snark with some of her own, shares his Knight in Sour Armor approach to the world, and helps him a little in the investigation.
  • Stepping Out for a Quick Cup of Coffee: While Marlowe is discussing the case with two police officers in their office, the senior officer announces that they have to step out for a few minutes, before pointing out a file on his desk and saying that it contains five official copies of a document Marlowe is interested in, "Don't let me catch you looking at them." Marlowe of course opens the file as soon as they're out of the room. He also discovers that the file contains six copies of the document, and correctly infers that he's intended to take one copy and make appropriate use of it.
  • The Stoic: Though Marlowe does have his more human moments, these mainly occur when he's been truly pushed over the edge. The rest of the time, though, he manages to remain completely deadpan even as he's being beaten up by crooked cops or having guns waved in his face.
  • Talks Like a Simile: A feature of Marlowe's narration. Lampshaded during one of Roger Wade's drunken rambles, when he complains about writers (including himself) overusing it.
  • Tap on the Head: Happens quite often.
  • This Is the Part Where...: When Marlowe is first questioned by Sergeant Green and Detective Dayton, he says "This is where I say, 'What's this all about?' and you say, 'We ask the questions.'"
  • Zillion-Dollar Bill: Marlowe receives a "portrait of Madison" (a $5,000 bill) for doing a small favor at the start of the novel. The bill causes no end of trouble.

He turned and walked across the floor and out. I watched the door close. I listened to his steps going away down the imitation marble corridor. After a while they got faint, then they got silent. I kept on listening anyway. What for? Did I want him to stop suddenly and turn and come back and talk me out of the way I felt? Well, he didn't. That was the last I saw of him.
I never saw any of them again-except the cops. No way has yet been invented to say goodbye to them.