Bob’s Pick: Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
It is the 1940’s. You live in Los Angeles, California. You open the door to the local bar and grill. You are immediately greeted by a tsunami of cigarette smoke and your visibility becomes near zero. With outstretched hands, you guide yourself to the nearest barstool and breathe a sigh of relief.
It has been a long day and you are anxious to relieve some of your stress with the amiable and talkative man behind the bar. You order your favorite drink, an “old fashioned”. Your taste buds dance with the first sip. This loosens your tongue and you start to begin pleasantries with the bartender. As the first utterances leave your mouth, you notice a hazy shape begin to materialize behind your back as seen in the bar’s oversize countertop mirror. Next thing that you know, you feel a sharp blow to the back of your head and you pass into a sea of unconsciousness.
Upon awakening, you find yourself in between the sheets of your spacious king size bed at home. Next to you is a copy of Raymond Chandler’s book, “Farewell, My Lovely”. Wow, not the best book to read and have peaceful and happy dreams about. One of the things that makes you wonder is just what type of drink is an “old fashioned”? Does anybody really drink those anymore?(1)
Still, in reading this book, you will get to walk in the shoes (gumshoes, even) of the main character, private detective, Philip Marlowe. To some, this book will even seem dated, but to fans of noir books and film noir, this book should be right up their alley. Who can forget Humphrey Bogart’s portrayal of Philip Marlowe’s character in the “Big Sleep”?
This story is about Marlowe’s simultaneous involvement in what appears to be two separate cases. One case involves a tough ex-con who immediately upon release from prison searches for his girlfriend and in the process kills a man. The other case is a murder mystery about a man who intermediates in a stolen jewelry exchange and gets himself killed.
In investigating these events, Marlowe is his usual unintimidated self. As proof, he adds to his body a collection and series of bumps, bruises, cuts and scars. A shot of whiskey and he feels no pain. Yet he is always one step in front of the police who always seem to take his lead.
Through his diligent sleuthing, he also gets to rub elbows with the upper crust and high society of Los Angeles. He finds that not all members of this society made their money by legitimate means. These discoveries often gets him in trouble but also get him closer to finding the truth.
Just like for fans of Agatha Christie and Hercule Poirot or any other detective series for that matter, becoming a Raymond Chandler and Philip Marlowe fan is a matter of taste. Unlike other detectives, Marlowe relies more on footwork, looking under every rug belonging to any element of society from the richest to the poorest. The people he meets along the way are also very memorable. Imagine Lauren Bacall in the “Big Sleep”. Yep, nothing gets too much better than Bogie and Bacall!
(1)An “old fashioned” is one of the earliest cocktails ever invented. It contains sugar, bitters, water, and whiskey. It is usually garnished with a slice of orange and a cocktail cherry.