Never knowing exactly how to finish. The conversation always takes a intriguing turn exactly when it is supposed to end. I always start to miss someone so much more as we start to pull apart. Goodbyes always tear me up while they are happening, though it is pleasantly calm afterwards.

The Long Goodbye is Raymond Chandler's masterpiece.

First a little context... Raymond Chander, you see, IS detective fiction. He single-handedly took a genre that was the epitome of all that is encompassed by the term "pulp fiction," an interminable morass of two-bit paperback "thrillers" with the occasional decent work as rare as a tax rebate (see Hammett, Dashiell), and raised it to a level of literary art that, in the minds of many, has never been equalled: six perfectly imperfect novels, written between 1939 and 1953 (let's forget for the moment about Playback and Poodle Springs).

The last of the six, written as Chandler's wife lay dying, was The Long Goodbye. The novel finds our hero, the brooding and "hard boiled" Los Angeles private eye Philip Marlowe, meeting Terry Lennox, an English expatriate and drunkard with woman trouble and a complicated past. Marlowe befriends the man for reasons he does not entirely understand, and when Lennox shows up at his door a few months later, Marlowe helps him flee to Mexico, even though all signs point to Lennox having murdered his wife. Even after a suicide and a confession letter seal Lennox's guilt, a strange sense of loyalty leads Marlowe to start asking questions, and draws him ever deeper into a tangled underworld of wealth, power, and brutal violence.

If Chandler's other Marlowe novels were slow and introspective, The Long Goodbye is slower, and even more introspective. At the height of his literary powers, Chandler weaves suspense, autobiography, and even social commentary into the ultimate "hard boiled" detective thriller. Like a fine aged alcohol: smooth, subtle, and slightly bitter.

It would ultimately prove Chandler's goodbye to the pulp genre he had miraculously distilled into art, as Playback was really a screenplay, and Poodle Springs was written mostly by another author who "completed" it after Chandler's death. Thus there has seldom been a more perfectly titled novel.

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