Murder Is Our Peculiar Pastime: Fifty Notable American Crime Novels: 9-10


Chandler, Raymond.  The Long Goodbye.  Boston: Houghton, 1954.

In creating Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler followed the model that Dashiell Hammett provided in Sam Spade.  Both are hardboiled detectives who expect the worst of most people and are seldom proven to be overly pessimistic.  Both operate on the dangerous ground between the criminal underworld and corrupt law enforcement, representing clients who have compromised themselves in trying to conceal some personal or family secret.  But whereas Spade adheres to a personal code that does not preclude his profiting from corruption, Marlowe is more incorruptible, an anti-hero because he behaves heroically without much faith in the established order.  It is Marlowe’s fundamental strength of character that permits Chandler to write so lyrically about the underside of Los Angeles life, whereas Hammett’s descriptions of criminality tend to be much grittier, much harsher.  Marlowe hopes that on some level he can make things better…

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