The Goodbye Coast

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I really wanted to like this book. I've read Joe Ide's first three "IQ" novels (Count 'em: one, two, three) and enjoyed them very much. I've noticed that Ide's style has, in the past, been very Chandleresque.

And I devoured Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe books back when I was a young 'un. Movies based (no matter how loosely) on the books? I'm there. (Yes, even The Long Goodbye with Eliott Gould!). And I've gobbled up Marlowe's (estate-authorized) ventures penned by other authors: Robert B. Parker, Benjamin Black, and Lawrence Osborne.

Despite my high hopes, this effort didn't make it for me. Problem One: Its third-person narration is (sorry) heretical; Marlowe is a first-person kind of guy. While there are flashes of Chandleresque prose ("The room was like a Goodwill store in Dubai.") they weren't enough to win me over. (I was OK with moving young Marlowe into present-day LA, though.)

We get an origin story, of sorts: Marlowe initially wants to be a cop, like his dad. But both parents observe that he's got problems with authority that will doom that career choice, and it only takes a few weeks for Marlowe to realize that too. So he accepts the tutelage of a slovenly, Panda Express-loving private eye, and a few years later…

A snappily-dressed Marlowe (with a Patek Philippe watch!) calls on Kendra, a washed-up, ultra-bitchy actress who's lost track of seventeen-year-old daughter Cody. This is only weeks after Kendra's husband, Terry, was shot in the face on the Malibu beach outside their home, an unsolved crime. Marlowe takes the case, because he likes money, but soon becomes embroiled in a complex web of family dysfunction and sociopathy, Russian and Albanian mobsters, movie-biz corruption, and the like.

Marlowe also takes the case of Ren Stewart, whose ex-husband has absconded with her son Jeremy. These two cases get intermixed unpredictably.

Marlowe is assisted by his dad, Emmet, a cop turned to serious alcoholism after losing his wife, Addie, to cancer. Both Marlowe and Emmet have an unfortunate habit of letting the bad guys get the drop on them.

There's a weird scene (page 61) where Marlowe is roped into watching a bit an old movie, which just happens to be To Have and Have Not, with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. ("You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve?") Weird, because Bogie and Bacall were also in The Big Sleep, where Bogie played a character named … Philip Marlowe!

And then it gets weirder (page 270): Marlowe seems to be aware of Bogart being in The Big Sleep. Phil, did you notice anything about that movie? Like you being the main character in it?

I got seriously sidetracked wondering about the nature of Marlowe's fictional universe, and how it overlaps ours.

Last Modified 2024-01-16 3:50 PM EDT