The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
Chandler called it his best book, and who am I to disagree? (I was on a panel with Michael Connolly when someone in the audience asked ‘What’s the best private eye novel ever written?’ Michael and I answered simultaneously, ‘The Long Goodbye’ then looked down the table at each other and smiled.) The sheer beauty of the prose alone would qualify it as a great book, (“A city no worse than others, a city rich and vigorous and full of pride, a city lost and beaten and full of emptiness. It all depends on where you sit and what your own private score is. I didn’t have one. I didn’t care. I finished the drink and went to bed.”) but then there’s the command of the genre, the graceful manipulation of the plot and the perfectly drawn characters – Terry Lennox, Roger and Eileen Wade, Menny Menendez. . . .
And then there’s Marlowe, the perfect noir hero – the classic tough guy, wise-cracking detective with the soft heart and a hunger for the truth. In Marlowe, Chandler set the bar for the rest of us (we owe our livings to him) and also set a standard as to who this hero should be: “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean.” I have the quote taped on my desk.