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Philip Marlowe is perhaps the most well-known and influential character in the noir genre. In film and television adaptations, the world-weary, chess-playing, poetry-reading, chronically sarcastic Los Angeles-based private detective has been portrayed by three Academy Award winners (George Sanders, Humphrey Bogart, and James Caan) and five nominees (Robert Montgomery, James Garner, Robert Mitchum, Elliot Gould, and Liam Neeson). The Long Goodbye, published in 1953, isn’t Marlowe’s first appearance, but it is arguably his most important, solidifying his creator Raymond Chandler as not just a genre craftsperson, but also one of the essential stylists of mid-century American fiction writing. In it, Marlowe, now middle-aged, does a fellow drunk a favor and as a result ends up caught in a web of high-society L.A. lies, incivility, psychosexual trauma, and murder. To read The Long Goodbye is to be dropped into a world of dark pathos and simmering sentimentality: “It was raining, just like it had been the last two days, and all I wanted was to cozy up with Old Forester and lock the door. That’s when she walked in, took off the shawl, and shook her bleach job loose.” That’s Philip Marlowe—or really, Raymond Chandler. —Elijah Wolfson

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