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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 15 April 2012
The last and least known Marlowe. Most definitely the easiest plot to follow.

An overriding melancholy, as Marlowe, like Chandler, shows his age. It is 20 years since 'The Big Sleep'. 'Playback' reflects many social changes in this period. Chandler was 70 when he wrote this. He seems to struggle with the extent of the liberalisation that has occurred and how to place Marlowe in this environment.

This is especially true with the description of women. One minute a woman like Vivian Sternwood gave off an erotic chage with a scratch of her knee, but 'Nowadays, she's in the bed while you're struggling with your collar-button'.

After debuting as a 'hard-nose', turning into a 'shop-soiled Galahad', we now have a batchelor pining over the temps perdu. The young lovers, Jack and Lucille, with the symbolic 'unpretentious diamond ring', feature disproportionately as a counterpoint to Marlowe's own batchelor future.

Much more detective 'tradecraft' in this book. It's a very good read but it doesn't hit the heights.

It almost gets away with the idea of the sad lonely PI until Chandler 'bottles it' at the end. As a reader, I felt that reading 'Playback' was rather like 'completing the set' and, in truth, it felt like Chandler was doing the same.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 3 April 2014
First of all, let me just say that I am a big Raymond Chandler fan and think that he is one of the greatest detective novelists of all time; having said that, this book was a bit of a task to get through. I also need to say that it took me three attempts to get through it.

The whole book is rather dull and the plot meanders along without much happening; the characters are uninteresting and even Marlowe himself seems devoid of all personality. The ending resolution is unfulfilling and by the end, it seems that Chandler has taken an awfully long time to say nothing. However, certain sections are indeed quite interesting and towards the end, it definitely gets better.

I truly feel terrible for writing this, since I believe that most of Chandler’s other works are amazing, literary greats; but the truth is that this is his weakest book and it is sadly dull and forgettable.
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'Playback' was the only novel that the great Raymond Chandler wrote drunk. His first six novels were masterpieces and written entirely sober although he was clearly an alcoholic by the time he started work on his first novel. 'Playback' is his weakest by a country mile. It's hard to believe that this weakness was due only to his advancing years, general exhaustion and ill health. It is so very different from all the others that my feeling is that it was his alcoholism, over which he had finally lost all control, that was the reason for its relative mediocrity. It has the feel of a ghost written book, and not a very good one at that. Regardless, I have read it several times and enjoyed it each time. Would I have enjoyed it had I not read the first six magnificent novels? Probably not. But I had, and I did. Raymond Chandler was one of the literary giants of the twentieth century. 'The Big Sleep' was perhaps his masterpiece, and all the others are also brilliant. 'Playback', was originally written for Universal as a screenplay. He adapted it into novel form purely because he needed the money. But it is still a good read. It is largely devoid of his usual literary flourishes and we don't get much of a feeling for Marlowe from it. It is half the length of his better works and there is very little of the vivid description and brilliant dialogue that characterize his other work. But it has his usual themes of class and corruption set in an ostensibly dignified Californian community - here it is La Jolla in San Diego which he calls Esmerelda in 'Playback'. Four stars for a weak novel written by one of the literary greats.
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on 11 April 2015
I thought I had read all the Philip Marlowe books long ago, including the short stories. Not so because there is Playback published in 1958 five years after The Long Goodbye.

I vaguely remember references to it, and it not being up to par. I think there is something in that. It is fairly simple (not necessarily a bad thing) and fairly short. The plot concerns Marlowe tailing someone for a lawyer for reasons unknown (and never totally made clear). There seem more amorous encounters than in the other books and they seem a bit gratuitous.

What is still there is the evocation of the seedy world of southern California in the early 1950s. This time the location has moved more from urban LA to small resort towns populated by the rich (and the underclass who work for them). A rich old man in a hotel gets the chance to philosophise - and offer some useful information to Marlowe. The cops, for once, mostly seem honest and decent.

Right at the end there is a connection back to "The Long Goodbye". I think that normally the books stand alone and there is no progession from one to another.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 19 June 2014
Playback is the last completed Philip Marlowe novel, and somehow it feels that way. It lacks the intensity (and brilliance) of the earlier stories. Compared to such masterpieces as The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye this seems a rather shallow affair. However, if you like Chandler this is still very readable.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 18 February 2012
This is a good book. The writing style is as enjoyable as the plot. The snappy dialogue and visual imagery make for an almost cinematic experience. Reflecting the social situation of the period it was written in, some modern readers may find some aspects jarring, but it takes only a minor effort to suspend such concerns. The many TV and film derivations make the setting seem at once familiar but this is the source and still shows the originality and skill that made it popular in the first place and demonstrates why all of Raymond Chandler's novels have had many screen adaptations.
Just as with P.G. Wodehouse in a Raymond Chandler the writing is deceptively simple and effortlessly enjoyable by dint of consummate ability with words. Just the right ones, in exactly the right order. For instance - 'she gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket' or 'the furniture had had a great deal of expense spared on it'. Cops, blondes, guns and murders, California in the 40s and an anti-hero in the shape of Philip Marlowe. I hope this reads like a 5 star recommendation - because that is what it is.
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on 30 October 2014
Some say not his best, but love the way its a cliff hanger about who is behind it all. Does play on the vintage angle, seems to be aware that even in the 50s, the noire style was a cult. May be loses out on some of the snappy dialogue
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on 2 November 2014
The weakest of the Marlowe books and, once you know Chandler took an abandoned movie script for the plot of this, it shows. Still, we get to see Marlowe break a punk's wrist with a tyre iron and the dialogue is as crisp as always.
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on 12 July 2015
I had to endure every twist and turn and it was worth it. I shall have read more of this character.
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on 26 December 2014
So enjoyed this read, Problem read again in the next 5 years
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