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Written by Timothy Sexton
Marlowe is, along with Sam Spade and Mike Hammer, is one of the iconic kings of the literary world of private detectives. Readers of The Long Goodbye may already be familiar with Philip Marlowe from Chandler’s The Big Sleep. Marlowe’s involvement in this particular story with a title that is a metaphor for death begins with a favor; the kind of favor that makes some people give the long goodbye to the very concept of having friends. Marlowe must give his friend—and not even a particularly close friend—Terry Lennox a lift to the airport when Lennox is put in the position of fleeing the country. This association with a casual acquaintance draws Marlowe into yet another case that situates him within a world of ambiguous morality among the well-to-do. Because Marlowe’s own moral compass is far less ambiguously pointed toward due north, Marlowe persists in doing the right thing despite warnings from the cops, the syndicate and the wealthy elite to just mind his own business.
The Long Goodbye actually verges more into the territory of film noir than The Big Sleep, not least in part due to Terry Lennox being a veteran returning from the horrors of World War II with a newfound sense of the utter futility of looking for a black & white world in the post-war reality. Like many returning veterans whose eyes have been opened, Terry Lennox turns to drink. Not that the war stripped away Terry’s natural charisma, as the PI driving the prime suspect in the murder of Terry’s wife to the airport so he can flee the country can tell you.
Roger Wade is a hack writer and may or may not be the autobiographical representation of how author Raymond Chandler viewed himself in his darker moods. Like Terry Lennox, Roger Wade is a bit of a drinker—more than a bit, actually. His dipsomania didn’t stop him from bagging an exceptionally gorgeous British wife. What is most troubling about Roger is not that he drinks like a fish and has a wife who is perhaps not as solidly faithful as she might be, but that facing writer’s block he is driven to suicide. Driven to suicide by forces that he does not seem to recognize. Those bizarre suicidal tendencies actually drive Roger to replicate Terry Lennox in a way that goes beyond merely sharing a taste for the hard stuff: both Terry and Roger appear to actually go through with suicides. The big question being, of course, just how deceiving can appearances really be?
The wife of Roger Wade who hires Philip Marlowe to look into the strange problems going on with her husband. Under the pretense of mistaking him for someone else, Eileen attempts to seduce the detective, but Marlow is notorious for being able to turn down such temptations and he comes through again in the clutch with Eileen. A decision made all the greater by virtue of the fact that Eileen’s beauty is as breathtaking as her attempts at seduction seem beyond all reason.
Of course, every man comes up against that test that he is just destined to finally fail. Linda Loring is the sister-in-law of Terry Lennox—the sister of his wife Sylvia—and for the first time in the literary history of Philip Marlow, PI, he is seen going to bed with a woman. Perhaps no the best choice since Linda’s daddy is none other than Harlan Potter.
Harlan Potter is a powerful newspaper publisher. Linda takes Marlowe to meet him, but things do not go as well with the dad for Marlowe as with the daughter. To say the least; Harlan warns Marlowe that the Lennox case is anyone where he might want to put his nose. Marlowe respectfully declines the advice.
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