Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Long Good-Bye by Raymond Chandler

(Book Review)

I picked this book up at Nagoya airport just before flying back to America a month ago. (I'm a slow reader).

Like most books picked up at airports, I picked this up because I needed something to read on the plane and the selection was limited. (Nagoya airport must specialize in classic pulp fiction. The last time I was in Nagoya airport I bought "The Postman Always Rings Twice").

However at the same time Raymond Chandler was always one of those authors I meant to get around to reading someday, and I was familiar with his reputation as the author who turned the hard boiled dectective novel into an art form.

The first thing to know about Raymond Chandler (at least based off of my experience with this one book) is he is no hurry to get where he is going. If his character is going to walk into a house to meet another character, you can bet there will be a detailed description of the front walk in and what the house smells like.

This caught me a little bit off guard because I expected a hard boiled dectective novel to be more action based, but once I made my peace with his slower narrative style I just relaxed and enjoyed the ride.

By way of a counter example: most of the stories in the Sherlock Holmes canon are only about 20 pages, which I think is just about the right length for a mystery. Decently long to let you wonder about it for a while, but short enough so that you can read the whole thing in one sitting and don't have to go to bed wondering who the murderer is.

"The Long Good-Bye" is close to 500 pages, and I read it over the course of about a month. And yet I never really lost too much sleep wondering who the murderer was. After a while the murder didn't even seem like the main point and the story went off in other directions. Needless to say, however, it all ties together at the end.

Mixed in with the story is a fair amount of social criticism, both at the corrupt justice system and also at corrupt government and business.

A good read if you have the patience for it.

Link of the Day
Smell of Death Permeates Ruined Iraqi Villages

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