Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
The theme of The Long Goodbye, the sixth of Chandler’s seven novels, is again the corruption of American society, especially its rich. It is also about alienation and the need for love and friendship.
Marlowe befriends a charming drunk, Terry Lennox, in the parking lot of a swank Beverly Hills restaurant. Terry comes to him a few months later, and Marlowe drives him down across the U.S. border into Tijuana. It seems that Terry’s wealthy wife, Sylvia, the daughter of Harlan Potter, a newspaper magnate, has been murdered, and the police suspect Terry. The police arrest Marlowe as an accessory when he pulls into the driveway of his Hollywood Hills home after the long trip back from the Mexican border town.
The police release Marlowe after they receive a written murder confession from Terry, as well as the news that he has died in Mexico. The police warn Marlowe off the case, as do several others, including Linda Loring. Linda, the disenchanted wife of a physician, is the sister of the murdered Sylvia. Later, she becomes Marlowe’s lover for a single night.
Meanwhile, Eileen Wade, the beautiful wife of a successful writer, Roger Wade, hires Marlowe to rescue her husband from a disreputable clinic for wealthy alcoholics. After Marlowe does so, Eileen begs him to stay with her husband to keep him sober long enough to finish another novel. Marlowe remains for a while but then leaves, disgusted with Roger’s drunken confessions of adultery with Sylvia Lennox and with Eileen’s seductive behavior. Marlowe returns to the Wade house a week later to have lunch with Roger. Roger gets drunk and passes out, and Marlowe stays near the house to watch over him. When Eileen returns from shopping that afternoon,...
(The entire section is 714 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Private investigator Philip Marlowe has casually befriended Terry Lennox, a “man it is impossible to dislike,” and when Lennox comes to him in trouble, Marlowe takes him across the border to Tijuana. The same night, Lennox’s wife, Sylvia, is found brutally murdered, and Marlowe is arrested for refusing to talk about his connection with Lennox. He is released from jail when Lennox’s death in a small Mexican town is reported and the police receive his written confession. The police, the lawyer of Sylvia’s father, Harlan Potter, Sylvia’s sister Linda Loring, and Harlan Potter himself, as well as a gangster friend of Lennox, all warn Marlowe to leave the case alone since he is still vulnerable to a charge of being an accessory after the fact of murder, and for a time he seems to do so.
Marlowe is then hired by Eileen Wade to find her husband and bring him home from a seedy, illegal clinic for wealthy alcoholics. Roger Wade, despite his success as a writer of historical novels and his marriage to a beautiful woman, has lately become a periodic drunk, reportedly given to violent outbursts. Marlowe finds him and, after a violent encounter with the owner of the clinic and his unbalanced assistant, rescues Wade and returns him to his wife. Eileen Wade tries again, as she has previously, to hire Marlowe to stay in the house and watch over her husband to prevent him from drinking and becoming violent or wandering off. Wade himself, revealing to Marlowe that he is troubled by an event that he does not consciously recall,...
(The entire section is 627 words.)
Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Private detective Philip Marlowe encounters the alcoholic Terry Lennox, a World War II veteran who had been wounded and who had spent time as a prisoner of war. Lennox is married to the incredibly wealthy Sylvia Lennox, daughter of multimillionaire Harlan Potter. When Marlowe first meets Lennox, Lennox’s wife Sylvia dumps him from her car for being too drunk. Marlowe helps Lennox, and a sort of friendship ensues; the two of them meet occasionally for gimlets at a bar called Victor’s.
One night, Lennox appears at Marlowe’s house, asking him for a ride to the airport in Tijuana, just across the Mexican border. Marlowe realizes that something drastic has happened but will not let Lennox implicate him as an accessory by telling his story. Marlowe drives Lennox to Tijuana and is arrested upon his return to Los Angeles, where he spends several days in jail. He learns that Lennox has been accused of savagely killing his wife. Despite harsh treatment by the police, Marlowe refuses to divulge any information about Lennox. Before long, Marlowe is released. He finds that Lennox has presumably killed himself in a small town in Mexico, leaving behind a confession. A gangster named Mendy Menendez warns him not to pursue the Lennox case. Upon returning home, Marlowe finds a letter from Lennox waiting for him, written before his confession. It also requests that Marlowe not investigate the case, and it contains a five-thousand-dollar bill.
Before long, Marlowe is contacted by publisher Howard Spencer and Eileen Wade, the wife of Roger Wade, a writer of popular historical swashbuckler novels. Wade, not for the first time, has disappeared in an alcoholic haze; Eileen and Howard Spencer wish to hire Marlowe to find Wade and bring him back. Marlowe is at first reluctant but finally takes the case. Marlowe soon discovers that Wade has been in the care of a shady physician, Dr. Verringer, who exorts monery from the alcoholics and drug addicts whom he treats.
Marlowe brings Wade home, and before long Spencer and Wade have another proposition...
(The entire section is 841 words.)
Bibliography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Babener, Liahna K. “Raymond Chandler’s City of Lies.” In Los Angeles in Fiction, edited by David Fine. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1984. The chapter on Chandler is a study of the image patterns in his novels. The volume as a whole is an interesting discussion of the importance of a sense of place, especially one as mythologically rich as Los Angeles. Includes notes.
Bruccoli, Matthew J., and Richard Layman. Hardboiled Mystery Writers: Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ross MacDonald. New York: Carroll and Graf, 2002. A handy supplemental reference that includes interviews, letters, and previously published studies. Illustrated.
Hamilton, Cynthia S. “Raymond Chandler.” In Western and Hard-Boiled Detective Fiction: From High Noon to Midnight. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1987. This study provides unusual insight into Chandler’s detective fiction from the historical and generic perspective of the American Western novel. Includes three chapters on the study of formula literature, a bibliography, and an index.
Hiney, Tom. Raymond Chandler: A Biography. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1997. Supplements but does not supersede Frank MacShane’s biography. Hiney makes good use of memoirs, critical studies, and new archival material documenting Chandler’s life and...
(The entire section is 452 words.)