Reviewer: Beth’s List Love (first published January 2013)
It was a warm day, almost the end of March, and I stood outside the barbershop looking up at the jutting neon sign of a second floor dine and dice emporium called Florian’s. A man was looking up at the sign too. He was looking up at the dusty windows with a sort of ecstatic fixity of expression, like a hunky immigrant catching his first sight of the Statue of Liberty. He was a big man but not more than six feet five inches tall and not wider than a beer truck. He was about ten feet away from me. His arms hung loose at his sides and a forgotten cigar smoked behind his enormous fingers.
…The doors swung back outwards and almost settled to a stop. Before they had entirely stopped moving they opened again, violently, outwards. Something sailed across the sidewalk and landed in the gutter between two parked cars. It landed on its hands and knees and made a high keening noise like a cornered rat. It got up slowly, retrieved a hat and stepped back onto the sidewalk. It was a thin, narrow-shouldered brown youth in a lilac colored suit and a carnation. It had slick black hair. It kept its mouth open and whined for a moment. People stared at it vaguely. Then it settled its hat jauntily, sidled over to the wall and walked silently splay-footed off along the block.
Silence. Traffic resumed. I walked along to the double doors and stood in front of them. They were motionless now. It wasn’t any of my business. So I pushed them open and looked in.
With writing like this, how can you not enjoy a nice noir mystery? Farewell, My Lovely is a brilliant effort from Raymond Chandler, and definitely deserves its place on the 1001 Books list. Marlowe is smart but not smart enough not to get hurt, or end up with a bout of the DTs, but you want him to succeed in his quest to figure out what is going on in the situation he links himself to inextricably by pushing these doors open to look in. He makes wry and witty observations about life, pisses off most of the people he meets, and knows a decent person when I encounters one.
I have always enjoyed Robert B. Parker‘s Spenser, and he is clearly modeled on Marlowe. It is no surprise that Parker at one point finished an unfinished Chandler novel. He was the right man to do it, but nothing equals the original. Chandler’s voice and eye for detail are flawless. He has a marvelous sense of pacing and creates delicious characters to play out his drama. He even quotes a little Shakespeare when you least expect it. I feel crazy giving this 5 stars when I’ve given so many other excellent books just 4, but this is the best of a genre, so it gets all 5.