The Goodbye Coast is a new novel by Joe Ide, author of several other books of mystery. Here, he takes gumshoe Philip Marlowe and moves him from the 1940s to present day.
Ide made a deal with the Raymond Chandler Estate, owner of the Marlowe character to write him as a suavy and hip private detective, not a caricature of a hard-boiled, Fedora wearing private dick.
I am no Raymond Chandler scholar, however I do respect the noir genre and find great interest in the evolution of the pulp private detectives in whatever medium they appear.
This is not the first time that Marlowe has climbed aboard a time machine. I can think of at least three instances when Marlowe was modernized for the big screen. Another one is coming in 2023, Liam Neeson is announced to portray some version of Marlowe.
Many actors have portrayed Marlowe, probably the best known private detective, outside of Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and Mike Hammer.
George Sanders, Van Heflin, George Montgomery, Robert Montgomery, Humphrey Bogart, Dick Powell, Philip Carey, James Caan and others took turns as Marlowe. Marlowe was a radio series, television series, theatrical films, television and cable films.
James Garner was Marlowe in a 1969 film of the same name. Although written by Academy Award winning screenwriter Stirling Silliphant, the film is a snoozer. I love Garner, but this film has no subtlety or anything unique to offer. Garner would soon find his P.I. niche as Jim Rockford.
Robert Altman put Elliot Gould in The Last Goodbye (1973) as a mumbling, cat-loving, outsider Marlowe adrift in a sea of narcissistic characters. Chandler would probably hated this treatment as Marlowe was not a commanding figure, or a ladies’ man, and he killed an unarmed man, but he deserved it. Interestingly, the screenplay was written by Leigh Brackett, who co-wrote the screenplay for The Big Sleep (1946).
Robert Mitchum donned the Marlowe Fedora for two low-energy adaptions of Chandler books. He was the only actor to play the character more than once. Farewell My Lovely (1975) and The Big Sleep (1978). The first film was set in 1941, but with a more modern sensibility. The second film was updated to the 1970s and set in London instead of Los Angeles. Mitchum embraced the character capably and nostalgia was the mid-1970s craze. It is easy to pump a Marlowe story full of melodrama and overacting. The Garner, Gould and Mitchum films overindulge in these qualities in their search for genuine noir.
In The Goodbye Coast, Marlowe is cagey, tough and introspective. He’s not like Stacy Keach’s 1980s ham-fisted caricature of Mike Hammer. Ide’s version of Marlowe does not pretend to be just a current packaging of the 1940s character. It’s a daunting line to walk, capturing the vitality and smarts of a persona without veering into parody. Ide’s Marlowe is not the toughest two-dollar steak, others in the story, including women, are more prone to settling an issue with violence. While not a softy, he does tend to wear his heart on his sleeve.
The location of The Goodbye Coast is the familiar territory of Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe. Eighty years has changed much of the landscape of the city, but not the greed, infidelity, cruelty or broken dreams. Good people cut their feet on the broken shards of the dreams of others.
Is The Goodbye Coast a good detective story? Yes. But is it worthy of Raymond Chandler and Philip Marlowe? There are twists and turns, scenes from both the ritz and underbelly of L.A., fractured family relationships, and coppers that are flawed. Nothing is really as it seems, yet that’s only because you aren’t really seeing it.
Ide, like Michael Connelly (Bosch), has good sense of weaving L.A. history into the story. He also carefully introduces flashback information, and does not over-write characters. More is not more.
The Goodbye Coast was an enjoyable read, enough that I am going to check out Ide’s other books.