The Long Goodbye (novel)

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The Long Good-bye
RaymondChandler TheLongGoodbye.jpg
First edition
Author Raymond Chandler
Language English
Series Philip Marlowe
Genre Detective fiction
Publisher Hamish Hamilton
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 320 pp
Preceded by The Little Sister
Followed by Playback

The Long Goodbye is a 1953 novel by Raymond Chandler, centered on his famous detective Philip Marlowe. While some critics consider it inferior to The Big Sleep or Farewell, My Lovely, others rank it as the best of his work.[1] Chandler himself, in a letter to a friend, called the novel "my best book" and recalled the agony of writing it while his wife was terminally ill.[2]

The novel is notable for using hard-boiled detective fiction as a vehicle for social criticism, as well as for including autobiographical elements from Chandler's life.

In 1955, the novel received the Edgar Award for Best Novel.

Plot summary[edit]

The novel opens outside a club called The Dancers. It is late October or early November 1949. Philip Marlowe meets a drunk named Terry Lennox, a man with scars on one side of his face. They forge an uneasy friendship over the next few months. In June 1950, Lennox shows up late one night at Marlowe's home in "a great deal of trouble", and needs a ride to Tijuana airport. Marlowe agrees as long as Lennox does not tell him any details of why he is running.

On his return to Los Angeles, it is revealed that Lennox's wife was found dead in her guest house, and that she had died before Lennox fled. Marlowe is arrested on suspicion of murder after refusing to co-operate with investigators, who want him to confess that he helped Lennox flee.

After three days of antagonizing his interrogators, Marlowe is released, the police explaining that Lennox has been reported dead of a suicide in Otatoclán with a full written confession by his side. Marlowe gets home to find a cryptic note from Lennox containing a "portrait of Madison" (a $5,000 bill).

A $5,000 bill with the portrait of Madison.

Marlowe gets a call from a New York publisher named Howard Spencer, asking him to investigate a case. One of his best writers, Roger Wade, has a drinking problem and has been missing for three days. Initially Marlowe refuses, but after Wade's wife, Eileen, also asks for Marlowe's help, he consents. Marlowe ends up finding Wade in a makeshift detox facility in a soon-to-be-abandoned isolated ranch. He takes his fee, but the Wades' stories do not match.

The Wades each try to convince Marlowe to stay at their house to keep Roger writing instead of drinking, and though he refuses, he ends up making further trips to the Wades' house at their behest. On one such trip, he finds Wade passed out in the grass with a cut on his head. Mrs. Wade ends up in a sort of trance and attempts to seduce Marlowe, thinking him to be a former lover of hers who died ten years earlier in World War II.

As all of this occurs, Marlowe is repeatedly threatened to cease his investigation of the Lennox case, first by a friend of Lennox's named Mendy Menendez, then by Lennox's father-in-law, the police, the Wades' servant (a Chilean named Candy), and Wade's wife. Marlowe also learns that Terry Lennox had previously lived as Paul Marston who was married previously and had lived in England.

Wade calls Marlowe again, asking him to come by to have lunch with him. Wade ends up drinking himself into a stupor, so Marlowe takes a walk outside, and when he returns Mrs. Wade is ringing the doorbell, saying she forgot her key. Marlowe finds Wade dead on the couch, apparently from suicide, but Eileen Wade accuses Marlowe of killing her husband. Candy fabricates a story to implicate Marlowe, believing Marlowe to be guilty, but his claims are undermined in an interrogation.

Marlowe receives a call from Spencer regarding Wade's death and he bullies Spencer into taking him to see Mrs. Wade. Once there, Marlowe grills her on the death of Terry Lennox's wife. Eileen first tries to blame it all on Roger, but Marlowe argues that she killed both Mrs. Lennox and Roger Wade and that Lennox was actually her first husband, presumed killed in action with British Special Air Service during the war. Eileen Wade leaves with no response. The next morning, Marlowe learns that she has killed herself, leaving a note confessing that she killed Mrs. Lennox and Roger Wade.

Marlowe still refuses to let the story lie. He is assaulted by Menendez, who is arrested in a setup arranged by a police commissioner who served with Menendez and Lennox during the war. Finally, Marlowe gets a visit from a Mexican man who claims to have been present when Lennox was killed in his hotel room. Marlowe listens to his story, before rejecting it and offering his own version, ending with the revelation the Mexican man is none other than a post-cosmetic-surgery Terry Lennox.


The Long Goodbye is Chandler's most personal novel. He wrote it as his wife was dying and her illness and eventual death had a profound effect on him, driving him into fits of melancholy as well as talk of and even attempts at suicide. The novel contains two characters obviously based on Chandler himself and both of them highlight Chandler's awareness of his own flaws such as alcoholism as well as his insecurities (e.g., in the value of his writing).[3]

The most obvious Chandler substitute is the usually drunken author Roger Wade. Like Chandler, Wade had a string of successful novels behind him but as he got older he found it more difficult to write. Also, like Chandler, Wade's novels (romantic fiction) were viewed by many as not real literature and Wade obviously has the desire to be thought of as a serious author. Wade also stands in for Chandler in discussions about literature, e.g., praising F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The other Chandler stand-in was Terry Lennox. Lennox was also an alcoholic. Also, like Chandler he had been in a war and the war had left emotional scars. In Lennox's case it was the Second World War; in Chandler's case it was the first. Lennox was a Canadian citizen but he had spent a great deal of time in England and retained the more restrained and formal attitude of an English gentleman. This made him somewhat of an anomaly in the fast paced and more informal world of wealthy Los Angeles that he inhabited due to his wife's money. Chandler was also raised in England and received a classical education there. Chandler also retained a great love for the English and what he viewed as their more civilized way of life compared to the shallowness and superficiality of Los Angeles. This frequently put him at odds with screen writing collaborators such as Billy Wilder as well as with most of Los Angeles and Hollywood society.[4][5]

Film, television and radio adaptations[edit]

This novel was dramatized for television in 1954 on the anthology series Climax!, with Dick Powell playing Marlowe as he had a decade earlier in the film Murder, My Sweet. This live telecast is notorious for an incident in which actor Tris Coffin, whose character had just died, thought he was out of camera range, and stood up and walked away, while in view of the TV audience.

In 1973, Robert Altman filmed an adaptation set in contemporary Los Angeles, with Elliott Gould as Marlowe.

The novel was produced for radio by BBC Radio 4 on 16 January 1978, with Ed Bishop as Marlowe and again on 1 October 2011 with Toby Stephens as Marlowe as part of their 'Classic Chandler' series. Japanese broadcast NHK aired five episodes of a Japanese adaptation of the novel in 2014.

Other appearances[edit]

The Long Goodbye is occasionally referred to in other works of fiction. Greg Iles refers to Raymond Chandler and the novel's title in his own novel The Quiet Game, and names one of his characters Marston.[6] It has been featured in the Japanese tokusatsu drama Kamen Rider W, in which the main character constantly reads from a Japanese version of the book. His partner's name is also Philip.[citation needed] Michael Connelly refers to the novel's title and quotes from it in his own novel The Black Ice. There are flashbacks to the events in this novel in the hommage Marlowe novel, The Black-Eyed Blonde.

The novel's title has frequently been referenced in the titles of other works of fiction with a hardboiled, noir, detective or gangster theme, including British gangster film The Long Good Friday (1980), the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Big Goodbye" (1988), and Frank Miller's graphic novel The Hard Goodbye (1991-92), the first volume in the Sin City series.

In music, crime novelist Matt Rees's band Poisonville, which is named after the fictitious location of Dashiell Hammett novel Red Harvest, released a song about The Long Goodbye on its first album. Rees described the novel as "a creepier book than people think."[7]


  1. ^ April 25, 1954 review of The Long Goodbye in The New York Times
  2. ^ Chandler, Raymond (2000). The Raymond Chandler Papers: Selected Letters and Nonfiction, 1909-1959 (Paperback ed.). Grove Press Books. p. 228. ISBN 0-8021-3946-9. 
  3. ^ Spender, Natasha (1978). "Chapter 11: His Own Long Goodbye". In Gross, Miriam. The World of Raymond Chandler. New York: A & W Publishers. pp. (128–150). ISBN 978-0-89479-016-4. 
  4. ^ Houseman, John (1978). "Chapter 5: Lost Fortnight". In Gross, Miriam. The World of Raymond Chandler. New York: A & W Publishers. pp. (55). ISBN 978-0-89479-016-4. 
  5. ^ Wilder, Billy (1978). "Chapter 4: On the Fourth Floor at Paramount". In Gross, Miriam. The World of Raymond Chandler. New York: A & W Publishers. p. (46). ISBN 978-0-89479-016-4. 
  6. ^ The Quiet Game, paperback edition, pps. 34 and 102
  7. ^ Matt Rees,

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Beat Not the Bones by Charlotte Jay
Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel
Succeeded by
Beast in View
by Margaret Millar