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University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

The Long Goodbye

cover image By: Chandler, Raymond (male)
Publisher: Pocket Books, Inc. (1044)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 216: PS3505 .H3224 L6 1955
Contributor: S. Hoffman, J. Lukin


Era: 1950s Author as on Cover: Raymond Chandler Geographic Locale: Los Angeles, California and the fictional suburb of Idle Valley, with a brief excursion to Tijuana, Mexico Date of Publication: 1955  |  Original Date: 1953 Setting: urban; middle-class and wealthy homes, shady and run-down offices Motives: murder and suicide based on jealousy and guilt

Plot Summary

Confusion reigns supreme in this ambitious novel. Philip Marlowe's loyalty to Terry Lennox, a suave, alcoholic war veteran, lands him in the cooler when the cops suspect that Lennox has murdered his wife and received Marlowe's aid in fleeing the country. When Lennox is reported dead, Marlowe is freed. His reputation for loyalty lands him a job offer in Idle Valley, where he is asked to look after another problem drinker, the guilt-ridden novelist Roger Wade. Wade's wife and agent plead for help from Marlowe despite the detective's protest that he can't protect a man from himself. Despite his better judgment, Marlowe becomes the writer's confidant. But does even Wade know the nature of his own guilty secret? Why, if Lennox is dead, do a gangster, a millionaire, and a powerful attorney keep warning Marlowe to stop thinking about him? Is there any connection between the come-ons of Mrs. Wade, whom Marlowe resists, and those of Lennox's sister-in-law, to whom he succumbs? And can Marlowe's dedication save anyone he cares about? Or is innocence punished as surely as guilt?

Major Characters

Philip Marlowe adult male, early 40s, tall, attractive, professional private investigator

Bernie Ohls adult male, middle-aged, fading blue eyes, a large head, thick white eyebrows, homicide investigator for the Los Angeles Sheriff's Office

Terry Lennox adult male, 40s, white hair and a mass of scars on the right side of his face, alcoholic war veteran with shady connections, usually living on his wife's income

Harlan Potter elderly male, six feet five and powerfully built, black hair, an immensely rich, powerful, and cynical publishing magnate

Dr. Verringer adult male, middle-aged, gay, chunky, with huge eyebrows, a shady physician who helps alcoholics dry out

Eileen Wade adult female, tall, slim, violet-eyed, blonde society wife, with a beautiful exterior and nothing inside

Menendez adult male, thick, wavy hair, dark skin, bright eyes, pencil-thin mustache, a wealthy and tasteful gangster

Sylvia Lennox adult female, dark red hair, spoiled coquette from a wealthy family

Roger Wade adult male, middle-aged, large and stubbly-faced, thick, curly hair, a hard-drinking writer of historical romances

Linda Loring adult female, thin and intense, large dark eyes, wealthy wife of a petulant, pill-pushing physician

Level of Violence

two or three people are shot, depending upon whose account you believe; one has her head bashed in; one takes a fatal overdose; three or four suffer non-fatal beatings. Violence occurs swiftly and is described with disgust and frustration.


a sympathetic character defends homosexuality. Sexual relationships in general, however, are bad news for everyone involved if they're not kept brief and treated stoically.

Gender Roles

chivalry and machismo are ridiculed, as is the behavior of seductresses. Women seem more often prone to idealistic illusions than men. The only working woman in the novel is a humorless secretary.


Marlowe stereotypes all Hispanics as "Mex." He acts friendly toward a university-educated black chauffeur who likes to discuss Modernism, but cynically accepts the man's need to shuffle for his boss.

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

drug-addicted and tranquilizer-promoting physicians are criticized. Social drinking is the norm -- alcoholism is depicted sympathetically as a response to extreme stress.

Law Enforcement

most of the police officers and deputies depicted are honest and competent; only two are real thugs. The sheriff is portrayed as a photogenic dolt.

Subject Headings

Marlowe, Philip/ California - Los Angeles/ Detectives, Private/ Murder/ Alcoholism

Psychological Elements

the novel comes close to advocating the view that having any kind of emotional attachment to others will lead to catastrophic consequences. Those capable of feeling are at the mercy of those who've adopted attitudes of contempt for others, self-preservation at all costs, complete narcissism, or retreat from all reality. The novel's major villain is loyal only to herself; another character is loyal to a manic-depressive lover who eventually kills him.

Film Adaptations

The Long Goodbye, 1973, United Artists