Michael Connelly on The Long Goodbye
28 October 2013
Bestselling crime author, Michael Connelly, takes a look
at Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye and what it means
to him and the City of Angels.
It's a tough choice when it comes to picking a favorite film
from a book. There are many good ones and many that have been
influential to me. The two that jump to mind first are
Bullitt, which was based on the Robert L. Fish novel
Mute Witness, and The Long Goodbye, based on the
Raymond Chandler novel of the same title. Let's go with The
Long Goodbye, because I think both the book and film offer the
reader/viewer a lot of contrast as well as a satisfying
The 1973 film version of The Long Goodbye was my
introduction to the work of Raymond Chandler. I saw it while in
college and immediately loved it. The only problem was that it was
a one-night showing a few years after its initial release. So I saw
it, loved it, and did not see it again for more than twenty years.
You see it was rated R and was not broadcast on network television.
I didn't see the film again until I spotted it as part of a double
bill at the Vagabond theatre in Los Angeles in 1988. Anyway, while
I didn't have the film to immediately watch again after that first
viewing, I did have the book it was based on. I went right out the
morning after seeing the film and bought the Chandler novel. I
skipped classes that day and just dug in and read. I finished the
book in the early hours the next day.
What I discovered when I read the novel was that the film and
book were quite different, even down to the characterization of the
central character, Philip Marlowe. The Marlowe of the novel was
more brooding and sardonic and less hopeful than the private eye in
the film - played by Elliott Gould. Many Chandler purists consider
the film, directed by Robert Altman, to be an abomination of the
book and character, and it suffered initially at the hands of
critics. The book is set in the 1950s and the film updates it to
the 1970s. I may be in the minority but I think both stand strong
on their own. The book is a hands-down classic and helped set
Chandler/Marlowe as the standard bearers of L.A. noir and
The two have different endings that I think speak to the
different times they are set in. Los Angeles in the conservative,
post-war 1950s was a different place to live in than the hedonistic
and freer 1970s. To that end reading the book and seeing the film
offer the chance to track a 20-year evolution of time and place. To
me that makes it worth the journey.
I often go back to both the book and film for inspiration and
encouragement as a writer of both novels and screenplays. As I
write this a poster from the film hangs on the wall near my desk.
It's got one of the best taglines ever - 'Nothing says goodbye like
a bullet . . .'
A former police reporter for the Los Angeles
Times, Michael Connelly is the author of the Harry Bosch
thriller series as well as several stand-alone bestsellers. His new
paperback, The Black Box, is out now in paperback and
ebook. His new hardback, The Gods of Guilt, is out
Thursday 21st November 2013.