Saturday, 21 March 2009

Playback - Raymond Chandler

Chandler’s last completed novel is a curious affair. It is short, has a curious drifting quality, and a happy ending. That aside, it is still well-written and displays all the dry wit and world weariness we would expect of a Philip Marlowe story.

Written toward the end of Chandler’s life when he was losing the battle with booze, there are some insightful moments that are, for me, more effective than his portrait of the anguished writer in his previous book. The night attendant in the garage who has seen the world develop around him, use him, and pretend he did not exist; who has lived as an outcast in a rich man’s world; who ended his life in an outside privy. This is a minor character written with a great deal of sympathy.

As for the rest, it is a tale of frustration with Marlowe not knowing why he is tailing someone, unable to get answers from anyone, and worn out by the time he does. The back story is a little weak and the book itself reads a bit like an extended movie treatment. But if this is to be considered Chandler’s weakest novel, it is still of a standard to which the rest of us could happily aspire.