Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Farewell, My Lovely: Raymond Chandler
The only other book I have read by Chandler is The Big Sleep and, based on that experience, I expected to enjoy reading this book. I was not disappointed. The plot was convoluted and circuitous and I was lost at times, but I did not care. The style of writing was so well done, so beautiful that I was mesmerized. The picture of Los Angeles in 1940 was interesting, the characters were well defined, and the descriptions of the area and the characters were breath-taking.
I did wonder why the story seemed so disjointed, but later remembered that this book was cobbled together from three short stories. That explains several subplots that generally are worked into the overall mystery plot but tend to go off on their own for quite a while. It did not really matter at all. The story is such a joy to read I wasn't bothered by the extraneous plots.
My favorite character in the book (other than Marlowe, of course) was Anne Riordan. She is straightforward, clever, and able to give Marlowe as good as she gets. She seems to have inherited her investigative abilities from her police chief father. It is good to see a woman given a strong, positive role in this type of book.
Some reviews I read noted that Marlowe was racist. I did not notice that in this book. Various characters do speak in disparaging ways about blacks, but those comments are not reflections of Marlowe's attitudes or his behavior. The story does provide a comparison of how the death of a black owner of a bar vs. the death of a white man, Marriott, is treated by the police. Nulty, an incompetent detective, is assigned the first case and no one really cares what results he gets. Inspector Randall of Central Homicide is assigned Marriott's death and that case is pursued throughout the book. There is also a separate subplot about corruption in the Bay City government and police department. Thus we get social commentary along with the mystery plot.
Farewell, My Lovely was adapted in 1944 as the film noir, Murder, My Sweet; it is very stylish and very entertaining. I was surprised to find that this movie, starring Dick Powell as Philip Marlowe, preceded The Big Sleep, with Humphrey Bogart as Marlowe. Thus Dick Powell was the first actor to portray Marlowe in a movie (although in 1942, The Falcon Takes Over, a film in the Falcon series, used the plot of Farewell, My Lovely).
Claire Trevor was gorgeous and predatory in the role of Helen Grayle, the woman married to the much older Mr. Grayle who owns the missing jade necklace. In the movie, the Anne Riordan role becomes Ann Grayle, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Grayle, trying to save her father from the pain of losing his young and beautiful wife. Ann is played very charmingly by Anne Shirley. The plot in the movie changes a lot from the book, and several confusing subplots are jettisoned. But the movie is just as confusing in it own way. I also liked Otto Kruger playing the role of Jules Amthor, the fake psychic.
In 1975, Robert Mitchum starred in a second adaptation of Farewell, My Lovely. I have not seen that version, but you can check out this post at Tipping My Fedora.
See reviews also at Past Offences, The Crime Segments, A Crime is Afoot, and avidbookreader. Most of those reviews have more plot detail than my post does.
I purchased both of my copies of the book at the Planned Parenthood book sale last year. The top picture is the one I read and features the red-headed Anne Riordan and Marlowe. The second book pictured here has gorgeous cover art by Tom Adams.
Publisher: Vintage Books, 1976. Orig. pub. 1940.
Length: 249 pages
Series: Philip Marlowe, #2
Setting: Los Angeles
Source: I purchased my copies.