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on February 16, 2007
Farewell, My Lovely was my first Raymond Chandler experience, a novel I first read back in junior year of high school, and one that will forever be known to me as the novel that defines noir, hardboiled detectives and gumshoe novels.

In this classic, detective Philip Marlowe gets hired to recover stolen jewels, which in turn has him running into the rogue gallery of gamblers, con men, crooked cops, and (of course) femme fatales. With this said, the story is completely character-driven, making it full of action and narrative. Just flip the book open to any page, and you'll clearly read slick, muscular dialogue and snappy comebacks. Chandler is a benchmark author for stories stripped of any literary fat.

Besides Dashiel Hammett, Chandler is the perennial writer of gumshoe detectives. And Farewell, My Lovely is the perennial gumshoe novel.
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on July 30, 2002
Raymond Chander's second novel is both more and less successful than his first. THE BIG SLEEP suffered from a plot that fell apart in midstream; FAREWELL, MY LOVELY, however, is much more consistent throughout. On the other hand, for all its twists and turns, THE BIG SLEEP was quite plausible; FAREWELL, MY LOVELY, however, is about as farfetched as you can get. But once again, such criticisms are almost beside the point: the great attraction is still Chandler's knock-you-flat prose, his tone of voice, his often imitated but seldom equaled style, and it is so powerful that it keeps you turning page after page after page.
In general, FAREWELL, MY LOVELY once more finds street-smart and super-savvy California P.I. Philip Marlowe sticking his nose where it has no business being--and when curiosity leads him to follow a massively built white man into a black nightclub he finds himself embroiled in a murder no one cares about solving... at least not until it begins to figure in what seems to be a completely different case with a high-society spin. And encounters with stolen jewels, a spiritualist racket, police corruption, and a gambling ship quickly follow.
Along the way Chandler again paints a gritty portrait of the seamy side of life. On this occasion, he takes a passing look at race, and makes the point that from a police point of view two standards apply: the authorities care nothing about the murder of a black man, but they treat a white man's murder very differently indeed. This portion of the novel is intrinsically controversial, for Chandler uses the slang and racial slurs common to the mean streets of his era--but it is worth noting that although Marlowe uses the same language, his attitude toward the blacks who appear in the novel is considerably different from that of the authorities, who could not care less about the murder of a black man who don't much care who knows it. And once again, Chandler graces his pages with dames and dandies, broads and bums--and he makes them live with remarkable vitality. The famous prose is as rich as ever, although noticeably less witty and quite a bit darker than that found in THE BIG SLEEP. We've stepped off the curb and into the gutter, Chandler seems to be saying, and we're walking in it all the way. Impressive stuff and a very entertaining read.
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on July 14, 2003
Raymond Chandler was such a master at his style of prose that you only have to read the first two paragraphs of FAREWELL, MY LOVELY to know exactly what sort of story you're in for. Those two paragraphs perfectly set up the plot that follows: a thriller crossing in and out of the racial divisions of 1940's Los Angeles involving seedy speakeasies, and off-shore gambling, with double-crossing as far as the eye can see. Wonderfully gritty stuff.
This particular Chandler novel has a lot going for it. The hero, Philip Marlowe, is as entertaining as ever. The setting is the familiar scene of other Chandler stories -- alive, heavy and oppressively Los Angeles. The plot is logical, but jumps around a lot, which is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the more it moves around, the more room Chandler has to incorporate evil-doings; I quite lost track of exactly how many crimes are committed or alluded to during the course of the book. No matter how farfetched it is, Chandler's prose is utterly gripping and absorbing.
I think Philip Marlowe must drink his weight in cheap liquor several times over during the course of this adventure, but you can't help but like the guy. He punches, he shoots, he boozes. He even solves the case by the end. He sure takes a beating in this one, but he keeps coming back for more. He's everything a pulp detective should be - angry, arrogant, determined, and with just a hint of pathos to make him interesting enough to carry the story.
The book as a whole is just too appealing and entertaining not to be a fun experience. Chandler is pretty much the benchmark for these sorts of stories about guns, police, and corruption, so if you like the genre, you might as well read the man who invented it. Tough guys yelling, "Beat it!" at each other might not be everyone's cup of tea, but Chandler is so good as telling the story that any inadequacies in the conventions of this genre are wallpapered over with some slick dialog and snappy comebacks.
I read FAREWELL, MY LOVELY more for the great atmosphere and tone than for its overall plot. The fact that the storyline wraps up nicely at the end is merely a bonus. But the real way to enjoy this book is to just let the atmosphere, the characters and the prose just wash over you.
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on September 29, 2000
"Farewell, My Lovely" is such an amazing book. From the first page, this novel does what all Chandler books do-- transports you to a whole 'nother world, so real it feels like you're actually there. FML is such an awe-inspiring accomplishment for the immensely talented man of letters, Raymond Chandler. Most of the time I was absolutely floored, just sitting there with my mouth wide open, marvelling at his genius. Writing is hardly ever this good, and when it is, the great stuff usually isn't the abundance of the book (as RC's is), rather, it's in little snippets here and there. There must be a God, because Chandler's writing makes me realize the potential of us humans to transcend the ordinary and be what he is-- extraordinary. Not to mention that the mystery will have you guessing all the way through, and even without the cynical prose (yes, I said prose) which manages to be beautifully ugly and positively negative at the same time (I told you he was a genius), is excellent in of itself. So, I urge every person who hasn't yet done so to read Raymond Chandler. He is not just a mystery writer (which usually means sub-standard literature) but he totally, without a doubt, transcended the genre. I guarantee his writing will blow you away. His clever, cheeky remarks, his sarcasm, his minimalistic prose, his cynical outlook, the dames, the coppers, the criminals-- that and more is what you can look forward to in this masterpiece of the English language.
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on April 8, 2002
Farewell My Lovely introduces readers to the seedy underworld that can be found among the deliciously rich in Southern California. This novel reads like a Quentin Tarantino production where every one seems cliché cool, moves swift, and screams with devious intentions. The main detective Philip Marlowe knows the underground world around Southern California as he is initially recruited to find stolen jewels but ultimately stumbles upon a murder case full of twists and turns. Crime follows everywhere he goes as he meets gamblers, fraud, vixens, con men, prostitutes, poor, and rich. This books relishes in the criminal underground and that is exactly what makes this novel such an enticing read. Perhaps one of the greatest attributes of this book is the fact that Marlowe, like the rest of us, is not flawless. Rather than being the astute Sherlock Holmes, this gifted sleuth has normal problems which we all can relate to. He never seems invincible and always seems to be on the verge of trouble which ultimately makes the book more enjoyable. The only drawback is by the end of the book I had already guessed the criminal, but then again, I may have just gotten lucky.
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on April 21, 2002
In Raymond Chandler's "Farewell My Lovely" we see the stereotypical detective, sitting in his detective agency, at his desk, looking out of a rain-streaked window, pondering something, something we will probably never figure out. The detective here is Philip Marlowe, Private Investigator, and he is presented with what seems like a simple jewelry theft case. Marlowe, with his wit and charm, instead confronts crooked cops, fraudulent psychiatric hospitals, blackmailers, con men, and beautiful and deadly women. Marlowe jumps, almost literally from situation to situation. Each scenario is highly entertaining, but a little difficult to believe. Either Philip Marlowe manages to fit thirty-four action-packed hours in one day or I don't know what. It's interesting how witty the character of Marlowe is and how unaffected he seems to be by all the events going on around him. Even when he is beat up, drugged, and almost killed, he gets up, and carries on. It is difficult to determine whether or not he does this solely for the money, or if he feels he has a personal investment, or perhaps desires the glorification. Chandler incorporates wonderful descriptions of sunny Los Angeles into his novel as we follow Marlowe around the city chasing after people, details, and a solution. He also uses a great amount of similes and metaphors, comparing everything to some strange seemingly unrelated object. Yet, when it comes down to it, this quintessential detective mystery fulfills all my requirements for a good book and left me guessing up until the end.
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on June 5, 2002
I recently listened to the unabridged version of this book narrated by Elliott Gould, and while Chandler's glimpse of 1940's era Los Angeles was surely entertaining, I still like Dashiell Hammett's "Continental Op" novels better. In Farewell, My Lovely, private dick Philip Marlowe starts out working for a barber on a minor job and unrealistically stumbles onto a murder by a hulk of an ex-con, looking for his old girl Velma in a club where she used to work. Marlowe then is mysteriously contacted out of the blue to provide security for a shady jewel transaction, in which a rich dandy is to attempt to buy back some precious jade from the thieves who stole it.
The novel moves at a brisk pace, and while some of the plot twists seem a little forced, they are entertaining nonetheless. One of my main problems with the story is that Marlowe seems to spend most of the novel putting his life in danger, getting knocked out, shot at or drugged, without much of an incentive to get involved. He often seems to be acting on his own, without a paying client, despite warnings from the police to stay away coupled with the obvious dangers. Hammett's continental op, in novels like The Dain Curse, at least had a paying client ordering him to snoop into the multi-layered mysteries, with significant insurance money at stake.
Ultimately, without giving away too much of the story, Chandler does a pretty good job of throwing a lot of balls in the air and wrapping up most of the loose ends by story's end. Some threads are left unresolved, like the whereabouts and motives of the mysterious doctor and psychic in Bay City, but most of the rest of the plot makes sense. LIke another reviewer said, at the end of the novel, while you may have enjoyed the ride, you are left with somewhat of an empty feeling.
As for the narration, I expected a little more from Mr. Gould, an accomplished stage and screen actor who seems to sleepwalk his way through the beginning of the book as if he was handed a copy of the novel, a microphone, and told to read. He later changes pace a little, adopting different voices for different characters, but I found the voices ill-suited to the characters and sometimes caricatures of policemen or gangsters, as if the novel was a scene from a "Bowery Boys" episode.
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on December 19, 2001
I'm not much of a fiction reader, but I have just about everything Chandler ever wrote, including a copy of his screenplay for "Double Indemnity." Every couple of years I go back and read everything all over again. How many mysteries can you do that with?
The thing is, of course, that you don't read Chandler for the mystery, which is just as well, because it's hard to figure out the story line in his books sometimes. You read, and re-read, Chandler because he created a whole universe in his novels - an image of a Los Angeles with a seedy underside, which suited perfectly the milieu that was associated with the town in the 1940's - the movie people and the parasites that lived off of them, the internal immigrants that flooded California from the Midwest during the Depression, the alienation under a bright sun. A lot of people got their image of California from Chandler.
You also read him for the irresistable charm of his protagonist, Marlowe, the shopworn Galahad with the relentlessly absorbing internal monologue that has been imitated by everybody from Jean Claude Belmondo to Garrison Keillor. For a while, Hollywood couldn't get enough of Marlowe, and well into the 70's movies were being made of his books - several of them have been made into movies twice, including this one. I sometimes think that the Marlowe character appeals very strongly to men, or at least a certain type of men, and that's why so many actors - Bogart, Robert Montgomery, Robert Mitchum, and especially Dick Powell - really wanted to play him on the screen.
The story starts out with Marlowe just walking down the street and not minding his own business, as usual, and ends up with multiple murders (some of them totally senseless), unspoken mistakes in judgement ( a favorite device of Chandler's) and a lot of unanswered questions. You always find yourself with a sense of brooding emptiness at the end of a Chandler book, a feeling that you've been through an incredible struggle to no purpose at all, and yet you're always glad you were along for the ride all the same.
This may very well be the best of the Marlowe novels; it's in my top two for technical perfection along with "The Big Sleep", although I have a personal emotional attachment to "The Long Goodbye." My advice: try them all.
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on May 1, 2004
This is a great novel for so many reasons. The dialogue is clever without descending into cuteness. The supporting cast of characters is a truly fascinating one. The descriptions of places are vivid. Be they the homes of the obscenely rich or rundown slum dwellings. The intricate plot unfolds in a way that really holds the reader's interest with a couple of nice plump red herrings thrown in for good measure.
As always, Marlowe himself is tough as nails and completely hard-boiled. Except that towards the end of the book, he surprises us by becoming sentimental. This uncharacteristic sentimentality is not directed toward either of the two female love interests. But rather toward a tall, violet eyed boatman named Red who helps Marlowe in his hour of need. You really have to admire Raymond Chandler for knowing just when to interject the unexpected.
I would love to give Farewell, My Lovely 5 stars, but I have to deduct 1 star. The reason? I can't for the life of me understand what the killer hoped to gain by commiting murder in the first place.
If Mr. Chandler were still alive, I'm sure he would address that particular concern in the manner of a college professor talking to a kindergartener. I can just imagine him saying: "Reality is not straightforward. Only in the world of fiction are motives clearly defined and unambiguous. My writing is meant to reflect real life." {From The Big Sleep (1939)- "It had the austere simplicity of fiction rather than the tangled woof of fact."}
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on December 26, 2002
A giant of an ex-con, bursting out of his costly, tasteless and ill-fitting clothes shows up at a nightclub one day, looking for his ex-girl, Velma, and takes Raymond Chandler's intrepid, wise-cracking detective, Philip Marlowe, along for a rather bumpy and dangerous ride, in this tale of crooked L.A. cops, gigolos, mediums, gamblers and gang betrayal. Moose Malloy is bigger then nearly everyone else and not overly bright but he is dead set on finding his Velma, last seen eight years before when Moose got turned into the cops for a bank job he pulled with some others. Marlowe witnesses Moose in action, while on a case, and gets sucked into the search for the big guy and his long lost honey by one cop while being warned off by another. But Marlowe is too bull-headed to do anything but keep pushing and, surprisingly, not particularly bright, since he keeps getting suckered and hit over the head and put at serious risk of his life. Situations he ought to see coming, as an experienced detective, he seems to persistently misread, perhaps because his liking for liquor has blurred his senses or maybe he just isn't a very good investigator. But, whatever the case, he stumbles on, from one life threatening situation to another. He also can't seem to get his arms around the fuzzy set of coincidences that follow hard on the heels of his run-in with Moose as he gets a job offer that anyone in his business with half a brain would walk away from . . . and then mishandles it badly. The seedy atmosphere of L.A. is very nicely handled and the characters sharply limned and convincing, but the perpetually soused Marlowe, with the self-defeating wise-cracks and nasty mouth is a little tiresome. I had a bit of trouble acclimating myself to the racist mindset that Marlowe and his cohorts present in this 40's milieu, too, since I thought it was somewhat gratuitous and even mean-spirited, but maybe that's how some folks thought in those days. More troubling was my profound sense that Marlowe was just not bright enough, or slick enough, to be a half-decent private eye. He seems, in this book, to have a death-wish, a bad trait for someone who hires himself out as bodyguard and investigator. He takes chances a green kid shouldn't take and never seems to see the blackjack coming. Still, he manages to stumble along, thanks to a combination of apparently undeserved good luck and just plain hard-headedness, until the cause of all his troubles unfolds itself before his and our eyes. Surprisingly, given his drink-induced obtuseness, he solves the mysterious set of coincidences that have led to so much murder and betrayal, and gets the girl who wants him though he's too tough to ever openly acknowledge wanting her. This was a very odd detective tale, if ever there was one, and yet, for all its irritations and flaws it kept me reading to a most satisfying conclusion that pretty much wraps the central problem up in an almost too-tight, neatly tied bow. Moose finds what he was looking for and Marlowe figures out how to find Moose and the killer of Marlowe's mysterious client is unmasked. Marlowe, of course, has another drink. -- SWM
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