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Author: Chandler, Raymond Thornton (1888-1959)

Year: 1958

Publisher: Hamish Hamilton

Place: London


208 pages. Small octavo (7 1/2" x 5 1/4") bound in original red with silver lettering to spine. (Bruccoli xv-1) First edition preceding the American edition.

This novel puts Marlowe in the position of turning against his client. We are at the beginning of 1952 (some 18 months after the parting of Marlowe and Linda Loring in The Long Goodbye). An unknown client hires Marlowe (via intermediaries) to follow a woman traveling under the name Eleanor King (whose real name is Betty Mayfield). Marlowe traces Mayfield to the small coastal resort town of Esmeralda in California, where he is given the runaround by practically everyone. During her train ride west, Mayfield was recognized by a man who then seeks to blackmail her, for reasons disclosed at the end of the novel. While Marlowe is poking around Esmeralda, the blackmailer is found dead on Mayfield's hotel room balcony. She panics and calls Marlowe for help. Marlowe encounters a variety of characters with dubious motivations, including a taciturn lawyer and his smart secretary (with whom Marlowe had a sexual encounter), a 'retired' gangster, overconfident would-be tough guys of varying morals, a hired killer (whose wrists Marlowe smashes), decent police officers, an affectingly desperate example of the American immigrant underclass of the 1950s. Marlowe also had a striking encounter in a hotel lobby with a reflective elderly gentleman, Henry Clarendon IV, which gives rise to an extended philosophical conversation. Marlowe learns that Betty Mayfield had been married to the son of Henry Cumberland, a big shot in a small North Carolina town. The son, Lee Cumberland, had suffered a broken neck during the Second World War and, though mobile and not paralyzed, for safety he regularly wore a neck brace. One day there was a quarrel between them, and later, the husband was found dead, with Mayfield re-fixing the neck brace on his body. The case drew widespread newspaper publicity (which is why the blackmailer recognized Mayfield on the train), and due to Cumberland's influence on the jury, the jury found Mayfield guilty of murder. But the jury's verdict was set aside by the judge, who saw more than a reasonable doubt and rejected the jury verdict as tainted. Cumberland vowed to hound Mayfield wherever she went, which is why she fled to Esmeralda; Cumberland was presumably behind Marlowe being hired in the first place. Cumberland arrives in Esmeralda to hound Mayfield in person, but with the help of the local police captain, Marlowe scares off Cumberland. (In the British edition of the novel, and the screenplay version by Chandler, Cumberland's name is Kinsolving). Mayfield decides to marry a local criminal-turned-respectable, who has taken a romantic interest in her. Marlowe lets her go ahead but has a frank talk with the ex-criminal, who obviously hasn't quite mended his ways, as he was behind the killing of the blackmailer. At the book's conclusion, Marlowe is rewarded by providence when an old flame (Linda Loring from the previous novel, The Long Goodbye), gets back in touch.


Corners gently bumped, some offset darkening to pasted downs. Jacket edge wear with some small chips and closed tears, closed tear along spine with crease to back and reinforced with old tape repair on verso else a very good to fine copy in very good jacket.

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