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Playback [Paperback]

Raymond Chandler
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 17.95
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Book Description

Aug. 12 1988 Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
Marlowe is hired by an influential lawyer he's never herd of to tail a gorgeous redhead, but decides he prefers to help out the redhead. She's been acquitted of her alcoholic husband's murder, but her father-in-law prefers not to take the court's word for it.

"Chandler wrote like a slumming angel and invested the sun-blinded streets of Los Angeles with a romantic presence:" -- Ross Macdonald

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Playback + The Simple Art of Murder + The Little Sister
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Product Description

From Library Journal

Chandler is not only the best writer of hardboiled PI stories, he's one of the 20th century's top scribes, period. His full canon of novels and short stories is reprinted in trade paper featuring uniform covers in Black Lizard's signature style. A handsome set for a reasonable price.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"Raymond Chandler is a master." --The New York Times

“[Chandler] wrote as if pain hurt and life mattered.” --The New Yorker

“Chandler seems to have created the culminating American hero: wised up, hopeful, thoughtful, adventurous, sentimental, cynical and rebellious.” --Robert B. Parker, The New York Times Book Review

“Philip Marlowe remains the quintessential urban private eye.” --Los Angeles Times

“Nobody can write like Chandler on his home turf, not even Faulkner. . . . An original. . . . A great artist.” —The Boston Book Review

“Raymond Chandler was one of the finest prose writers of the twentieth century. . . . Age does not wither Chandler’s prose. . . . He wrote like an angel.” --Literary Review

“[T]he prose rises to heights of unselfconscious eloquence, and we realize with a jolt of excitement that we are in the presence of not a mere action tale teller, but a stylist, a writer with a vision.” --Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Review of Books

“Chandler wrote like a slumming angel and invested the sun-blinded streets of Los Angeles with a romantic presence.” —Ross Macdonald

“Raymond Chandler is a star of the first magnitude.” --Erle Stanley Gardner

“Raymond Chandler invented a new way of talking about America, and America has never looked the same to us since.” --Paul Auster

“[Chandler]’s the perfect novelist for our times. He takes us into a different world, a world that’s like ours, but isn’t. ” --Carolyn See

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars More Marlowe driven than plot driven June 23 2004
Playback doesn't have the intricate plot of the Big Sleep or the Long Goodbye, but it still has wise cracking Philip Marlowe and that's the main reason I read Chandler's work anyway.
I've always liked how Marlowe gets hungry and other simple things that are left out of many detective novels. He's tough but human as he describes to his female client. "If I wasn't hard, I wouldn't be alive. If I couldn't ever be gentle, I wouldn't deserve to be alive."
I have no idea whether Marlowe's life is an accurate portrayal of a Los Angeles Private Eye during the 1930-1950s. You have to figure that their lives were a lot less exciting than Philip Marlowe's. And maybe that alone makes this novel a little underrated. Its scant plot is probably more in order with what would really happen to a PI. We're pre-conditioned to every detective case being about a series of murders.
I do know that Marlowe's experiences, tactics and observations make these books a fun journey. He wrote so very few during his years that even the calmer ones like Playback are worth the time spent.
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Originally published in 1958, just one year before his death, Playback is the last novel completed by Raymond Chandler. As always, Chandler's writing style is first rate. Highly descriptive prose, engaging dialogue, imaginative situations and anecdotes, as well as interesting social commentary are present in abundance. Unfortunately, the plot itself is so very thin and poorly conceived, little can be done to save it.
Most of the narrative takes place not in Los Angeles but in a small resort town near San Diego. Philip Marlowe has been paid to follow a beautiful redhead though he is not told why. Because he thinks she might be in danger, Marlowe identifies himself and offers to help the redhead who is traveling under the name of Betty Mayfield. Before long, an aquaintance of Miss Mayfield turns up dead. We subsequently learn that the body was caused to disappear in a very gimmicky manner. A manner one would be more likely to expect to find in a bad episode of Mannix than in a Raymond Chandler novel. Quite frankly, when I read this particular passage in all its cheesiness, I became embarrassed for the author and his countless fans everywhere.
Playback is worth reading if only to see how much Marlowe and American society had changed since the character's debut in the 1930's. Raymond Chandler is an American original, a legendary writer and pioneer of the hard-boiled detective genre. But Playback falls far short of the high standard he himself had set.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Playback but don't read the back cover. May 13 2004
Playback is the last Chandler's novel featuring the PI Philip Marlowe. The plot is far more simple than in previous Marlowe's cases and more emphasis is put in the atmosphere of the settings (a small and quited coastal village full of rich people).
The book explores some of the social class-conflicts present in other Marlowe's novels although with less bitterness: the policemen are not so brutal, the richmen are not so mean. The girl, though, is as cruel as usual.
The Black Lizard edition is quite good: confortable to read, aesthetically atractive. Just one mistake: the text in the back cover (yes, the one that you read before buying the book) tells you a little bit too much. Marlowe is told to follow a girl and you only know why on chapter 24 (of the 28 of the book). Well, if you read the 12 lines of the back cover you already discovered that before you even bought the book and that spoils half of the mystery (the other half is quite predictable anyway). So the advise is: buy the book, begin reading in the first page and never look at the backcover.
The book is good both for Chandler's fans and just crime novel lovers, but if you hadn't read the previous Marlowe's adventures you wont enjoy it that much. Read the other Marlowe cases first, beginning with The Big Sleep.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Depending on how you read it. Feb. 7 2004
Yes, Playback is the last of Chandler's novels.
No, it isn't the best of his novels-- not by a long shot.
Yes, it is still worth the time that it takes to read.
Playback is an afterword to a great series. It's a little bit sadder, a little bit more cynical. Marlowe (like Chandler himself?) is going through the motions and none of what used to interest him is quite as compelling. He's seen a vision of how it all ends and can't stay quite as focused on the plot.
In the book, Marlowe agrees to enjoy the charms of the lovely Miss Vermilyea, but not unless she agrees to go somewhere besides his apartment. He'd fallen in love with someone there, and isn't sure that her charms will live up to the comparison.
He says: "I had a dream here once, a year and a half ago. There's still a shred of it left."
As a reader, you may have the same feeling about this book. It's a lovely moment, but not to be compared to the real thing.
But still, a lovely moment.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Run of the mill Chandler July 7 2002
Why do I love Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe novels so much? I love them for Marlowe's edgy, wisecracking comments that drive its recipients mad. I love the gorgeous, incendiary women who linger just a bit on this side of evil. I love the twisty and turny plots and Marlowe's dogged search for the truth. In a world full of liars and crooks one can always depend upon Philip Marlowe's steely honesty and integrity. He is never in it for the money.
"Playback" has all of these elements but, unfortunately, in far lesser quantities than in Chandler's other Philip Marlowe books. In "Playback" Marlowe is assigned to follow this woman without knowing why and to report back on what he finds out about her. All the typical plot devices are there, but the results are far less than scintillating and are sometimes rather dull. If I were to pick out, however, my favorite part of the book it would be Marlowe's conversation with an elderly and infirm man who is staying at a hotel where Marlowe is holed up. Their discussion about the belief in God is incredibly sharp and extremely relevant to a man of Marlowe's profession.
All in all, despite its shortcomings, "Playback," while not top Chandler, is still Philip Marlowe and that can never be bad.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars good book
Awesome read . This guy has some really good books . have read many and enjoyed them all . recommend
Published 21 months ago by sharon Free
3.0 out of 5 stars An Unfortunate Finish
If not my very favorite author, Raymond Chandler is up in the top five. Which is why I loath to rate this book as I do. Read more
Published on March 26 2002 by Brendan Tucker
1.0 out of 5 stars A Terrible Chandler Book, Only Poodle Springs Is Worse
Chandler wrote but 7 novels and most critics and readers divide them into two groups, the first four beginning with The Big Sleep and ending with The Lady in the Lake. Read more
Published on Feb. 24 2002 by Hayford Peirce
5.0 out of 5 stars Playback is an engaging read.
I have read all of Raymond Chandler's novels, and I believe Playback was his last. This story was first intended, I believe as a screenplay, and reading the story, you definitely... Read more
Published on Feb. 19 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice detective story.
This was Chandler's first book that I read and I really enjoyed it. Philip Marlowe's in this book is like in the other's a great detective. Read more
Published on Sept. 9 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars The Evolution of the Modern Tough Guy Detective is complete
From Hammett to Chandler we see the beginning of the modern day tough guy detective. In this novel, Chandler's raging cynic, Phillip Marlowe, completes the cycle which began in... Read more
Published on May 21 1999
2.0 out of 5 stars Chandler's Last--And His Least
The setting--a coastal town called Esmerelda--is well-evoked. The observations are clever and occasionally poignant. Read more
Published on May 3 1999 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars American existentialism
Last novel of Chandler, and Philip Marlowe. On the surface is a classic detective story.But you may be faced with a couple of deep reflexions; about solitude and the individual. Read more
Published on March 10 1998 by J. D. Botet
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