Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler

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Farewell, My Lovely Summary

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Farewell, My Lovely, Chandler’s second novel, is filled with murder and corruption, yet it is essentially a love story. It begins on a warm day near the end of March in south central Los Angeles. Moose Malloy, a huge, dim-witted ex-convict, enters a bar called Florian’s searching for Velma Valento, the girlfriend he left behind eight years before, when he entered prison. Marlowe happens to be there to see Malloy kill the manager of the bar and maim the bouncer. Malloy escapes, and Marlowe makes a report to the police.

Curiosity drives Marlowe to look for Velma. He follows the leads to the home of Jessie Florian, the alcoholic widow of the former bar owner. She acknowledges that Velma used to sing at the bar, and she gives Marlowe a photograph of the missing woman. Marlowe receives a call from Mr. Lindsay Marriott. Marriott hires the detective to accompany him to a remote canyon in Malibu, where he will deliver ransom for a stolen jade necklace. When they arrive, Marriott is killed, and Marlowe is knocked unconscious.

When Marlowe comes to, he is met by Anne Riordan, a spunky, intelligent woman who happens by to check out the unusual lights in the canyon. She is the daughter of the former police chief of Bay City, and she decides to help Marlowe solve the case, although he balks at the idea. She discovers that the jade necklace belongs to Helen Grayle, the wife of a very rich man.

Marlowe discovers that Lindsay Marriott holds a mortgage on Jessie Florian’s house; this is the indirect connection between Helen Grayle and Moose Malloy. Grayle invites Marlowe to her house. She is a beautiful blond, and Marlowe finds her very attractive. She is married, however, and so, according to Marlowe s chivalrous code of honor, she must remain unattainable as the Holy Grail. It is probably no accident that her name is homophonous with the elusive goal of the medieval knights. She throws herself into Marlowe’s lap, and he succumbs to the temptation and kisses her. Just then, her husband walks in. Marlowe exits, embarrassed.

After he returns to his office, he is met by an American Indian named Second Planting. Planting drives Marlowe to the home of Jules Amthor, a phony psychic. There, Marlowe is beaten unconscious. He comes to, only to be beaten again by two Bay City police officers. When he reawakens, he realizes that he has been drugged by Dr. Sonderborg, a Bay City drug dealer. Marlowe escapes Sonderborg’s clutches and flees to the home of Anne Riordan. She feeds him, dresses his wounds, and offers him her bed. His principles make him refuse and return to his apartment alone.

Lieutenant Randall of the Los Angeles Police Department warns Marlowe off the case. Marlowe continues anyway, by going to interview the corrupt chief of the Bay City Police, John Wax. Marlowe discovers that the town is being run by the racketeer Laird Brunette, who owns the Bay City Belvedere Club and two gambling ships anchored in international waters three miles offshore. Brunette is a friend of Helen Grayle.

That night, Marlowe hires attractive sailor Red Norgaard to take him out to one of the gambling ships so that he can talk to Laird Brunette. He gives the racketeer a message on his card for the missing Moose Malloy. Marlowe returns to his apartment at about 10 p.m. He telephones Helen Grayle and invites her over for a drink. He falls asleep waiting for her, and, when he wakes, Moose Malloy is in his apartment.

When Grayle arrives, Malloy hides in Marlowe’s dressing room. Marlowe accuses Grayle of killing Marriott, and Grayle pulls a gun on Marlowe. Malloy comes out of the closet because he recognizes Helen Grayle’s voice as that of Velma Valento, his lost love. He suddenly realizes that she was the one who betrayed him to the police eight years previously. Grayle shoots Malloy five times in the stomach, then escapes and disappears. Malloy dies.

Anne Riordan congratulates Marlowe, but he still refuses to kiss her. Three months later, a detective finds...

(The entire section is 1,558 words.)