Raymond Chandler’s second novel, Farewell, My Lovely, was a satisfactory follow-up to his stunning debut, The Big Sleep. Chandler set a high standard for hard boiled noir fiction that few writers have come close to reaching.
Private eye Philip Marlowe has a tendency to stick his nose where it does not belong. He steps outside a barbershop one warm late March day, looks around, and sees a large man about ten feet away. He decides to follow the big man to a set of swinging doors. As Marlowe says, “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.” His natural curiosity once again gets him involved in deception and murder that nearly costs him his life.
Marlowe is a street-savvy P. I. who is accustomed to the seedier side of life. In this story, Chandler points out how different the police treat the murder of a black man versus the murder of a white man. Using the jarring racial slang of the era, Chandler has Marlowe treating blacks much better than do the white police force.
Darker and grittier than The Big Sleep, with far fewer moments of the laconic wit Chandler becomes famous for, Farewell, My Lovely details the steamy side of big city life with its crooked cops, seductive women, unexpected allies, and off-shore betting schemes. He continues his attention to detail, provoking emotion when least expected. Marlowe’s struggle to escape a seemingly sure date with a horrific death literally sends chills down the spine.
Chandler is a master of prose at the height of his creative genius as he writes of the seamy side of the city of angels in 1940’s Los Angeles. The action moves swiftly as tension rises to an unexpected, but inevitable, conclusion.
Although other writers have tried to emulate his caustic terse style, no one has written better pulp fiction than Raymond Chandler has. Farewell, My Lovely is a perfect example of a man honing his craft.