Finishing this set of novels is like losing a friend. The Long Goodbye also was Chandler's goodbye to his readers. Raymond Chandler only wrote six novels, excluding the controversial postscript Playback, and the other three (The High Window, The Lady in the Lake, and The Little Sister) are best read first. Few will dispute that Chandler was a genius. His work oozes atmosphere. It is packed with witty, imperishable dialogue. The characterisation is strong, and what stereotyping it contains only serves to make it more picturesque. For the universe Chandler created, lodged in 1930s and 40s Los Angeles and ranging from sleazy back alleys to beautiful people's mansions, is one from which we only wrench ourselves with regret.
Hinting at these three novels' storylines would be useless. If this is classified as crime fiction, the plots, somewhat implausible (especially of the last two novels), serve as an excuse for painting a world of danger and corruption into which, in the author's own words, `a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid'. That man is Philip Marlowe, the protagonist of all of Chandler's novels, immortalised by Bogart in the movie adaptation of The Big Sleep. One reason Chandler wrote so little is that he came to writing late in life, publishing his first short story at age forty-five. Chandler fought in the First World War and led a tortured life, no doubt influencing his dark, sarcastic style. But with numerous stories and film scripts to his record, he was also, alongside Dashiell Hammett, a leading figure of what soon became known as the `noir' genre. Chandler's views on detective fiction, and on writing in general, are presented in his succinct The Simple Art of Murder, available online and well worth looking up.