Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Along with Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler is credited with having originated the hard-boiled private-detective novel. Chandler located his novels in Los Angeles, not only because he lived there but also because it seemed to embody the worst traits of the emerging American society of the 1940’s and 1950’s; Hammett’s novels are, for the most part, located in San Francisco and its vicinity, while the authors’ most important disciple, Ross MacDonald, placed Lew Archer’s adventures in Chandler’s Southern California territory. Today, hard-boiled private-eye novels are written about Seattle, Boston, Indianapolis, Miami, and virtually every other real or fictional city in the country. These novels are a distinct departure from the traditional detective story, since their interest lies not in solving a puzzle but in the adventures of the protagonist and in what they reveal about the brutality and evil of the society in which they are placed. The Long Goodbye is typical in this respect. The clues which the reader would need to solve the mystery are not presented until Marlowe’s confrontation with Eileen Wade; while her actions are sometimes irrational or suspicious, there are only a few hints that might link her to Terry Lennox before the final revelations. Marlowe does not reveal even a suspicion that her motive for trying to employ him in the first place might be related to some connection between her and Lennox. This is the sixth of the seven...

(The entire section is 520 words.)