Raymond Chandler's Novels
The Big Sleep
New York: Knopf, 1939
Raymond Chandler's first novel introduces private detective Philip Marlowe, who's hired by a wealthy oilman to quash a blackmail attempt against the oilman's wild daughter. The case quickly takes Marlowe into the seamy world of bootleggers, pornographers, illegal gamblers, and murderers in pre-World War II Los Angeles.
Farewell, My Lovely
New York: Knopf, 1940
Chandler's second novel finds Philip Marlowe involved in two seemingly-unrelated cases: the murder of a nightclub owner and a job to recover a rich woman's stolen jewelry. When the two mysteries converge, Marlowe is embroiled in a complex web of racketeering, corruption, and failed romance in Bay City, a fictionalized version of Santa Monica.
The High Window
New York: Knopf, 1942
In Chandler's third novel, Philip Marlowe is hired to investigate the disappearance of a rare gold coin. His investigations take him from the seedy downtown neighborhood of Bunker Hill to the wealthy playground of Idle Valley (a.k.a. Malibu Lake) in a bitter exploration of the decadence of the rich and the corrupting power of money.
The Lady in the Lake
New York: Knopf, 1943
Set in World War II-era Southern California, The Lady in the Lake is Chandler's most tightly-plotted and thematically-consistent novel. Marlowe is hired to track down a business executive's missing wife and, in the process, uncovers a dead body floating in the waters of a tranquil lake up in mountains outside of Los Angeles, plunging him into a puzzling case of mistaken identities.
The Little Sister
Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1949
The Little Sister marked Chandler's return to novel-writing following a five year hiatus working as a screenwriter in Hollywood. Chandler draws upon his experience in the movie industry to spin a tale of powerful producers, pathetic bit players, and morally-bankrupt starlets as Philip Marlowe tries to uncover the fate of a young man from Manhattan, Kansas, was ensnared by the deceitful lure of the silver screen.
The Long Goodbye
Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1954
The Long Goodbye is Chandler's longest and most ambitious novel. It tells the story of Marlowe's uneasy friendship with a drunken playboy named Terry Lennox. When Lennox is accused of murdering his estranged wife, Marlowe helps him escape to Mexico and then sets about uncovering the truth about what happened. At times bitterly sardonic and at others sweetly sentimental, The Long Goodbye marks Chandler's fullest exploration of the themes of wealth, corruption, friendship, and honor in a glamorous but fallen world.
Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1958
Raymond Chandler's final novel takes place in a different setting: Esmeralda, a small town just north of San Diego (a thinly-disguised La Jolla, California). An older and more tired Marlowe must must prove the innocence of a twice-unlucky young woman when a known blackmailer winds up dead on the balcony of her hotel room.