At the Outfit, Sara Paretsky writes a brief but elegant tribute to Raymond Chandler‘s 1954 novel, The Long Goodbye. The story in the novel itself, Paretsky argues, mirrors Chandler’s own feelings of entrapment at the time–most pressingly, his concern that he was boxed in as a genre writer. “I might be the best writer in the country,” Paretsky quotes Chandler as writing to his editor after sending a draft of the novel. “And with two exceptions I very likely am, but I’m still [considered just] a mystery writer.” Paretsky adds:
The Long Good-Bye expresses Chandler’s bitterness and his weariness. Although Marlowe is beaten, is sent to prison, and has his life threatened, these action scenes are small punctuations in a novel about men trying to make sense of a world where they don’t feel at home. The first part of the book is an almost dreamlike series of conversations between Marlowe and Terry Lennox, a man scarred by war and by money. The middle, where Marlowe is involved with Roger Wade and his wife, has long passages filled with Chandler’s own torment about the state of his writing.