Or that elegiac tone that suffuses much of his writing—like the last chapter of Farewell, My Lovely:
It took over three months to find Velma. They wouldn’t believe Grayle didn’t know where she was and hadn’t helped her get away. So every cop and newshawk in the country looked in all the places where money might be hidng her. And money wasn’t hiding her at all. Although the way she hid was pretty obvious once it was found out.
One night a Baltimore detective with a camera eye as rare as a pink zebra wandered into a night club and listened to the band and looked at a handsome black-haired, black browed torcher who could sing as if she meant it. Something in her face struck a chord and the chord went on vibrating.
He went back to Headquarters and got out the Wanted file and started through the pile of readers. When he came to the one he wanted he looked at it a long time. Then he straightened his straw hat on his head and went back to the night club and got hold of the manager. They went back to the dressing rooms behind the shell and the manager knocked on one of the doors. It wasn’t locked. The dick pushed the manager aside and went in and locked it.
He must have smelled marihuana because she was smoking it, but he didn’t pay any attention then. She was sitting in front of a triple mirror, studying the roots of her hair and eyebrows. They were her own eyebrows. The dick stepped across the room smiling and handed her the reader.
She must have looked at the face on the reader almost as long as the dick had down at Headquarters. There was a lot to think about while she was looking at it. The dick sat down and crossed his legs and lit a cigarette. He had a good eye, but he had over-specialized. He didn’t know enough about women.
Finally she laughed a little and said: “You’re a smart lad, copper. I thought I had a voice that would be remembered. A friend recognized me by it once, just hearing it on the radio. But I’ve been singing with this band for a month—twice a week on a network—and nobody gave it a thought.”
“I never heard the voice,” the dick said and went on smiling.
She said: “I suppose we can’t make a deal on this. You know, there’s a lot in it, if it’s handled right.”
“Not with me,” the dick said. “Sorry.”
“Let’s go then,” she said and stood up and grabbed up her bag and got her coat from a hanger. She went over to him holding the coat out so he could help her into it. He stood up and held it for her like a gentleman.
She turned and slipped a gun out of her bag and shot him three times through the coat he was holding.
She had two bullets left in the gun when they crashed the door. They got halfway across the room before she used them. She used them both, but the second shot must have been pure reflex. They caught her before she hit the floor, but her head was already hanging by a rag.
“The dick lived until the next day,” Randall said, telling me about it. “He talked when he could. That’s how we have the dope. I can’t understand him being so careless, unless he really was thinking of letting her talk him into a deal of some kind. That would clutter up his mind. But I don’t like to think that, of course.”
I said I supposed that was so.
“Shot herself clean through the heart—twice,” Randall said. “And I’ve heard experts on the stand say that’s impossible, knowing all the time myself that it was. And you know something else?”
“She was stupid to shoot that dick. We’d never have convicted her, not with her looks and money and the persecution story these high-priced guys would build up. Poor little girl from a dive climbs to be wife of rich man and the vultures that used to know her won’t let her alone. That sort of thing. Hell, Rennenkamp would have half a dozen crummy old burlesque dames in court to sob that they’d gone blackmailed her for years, and in a way that you pin anything on them but the jury would go for it. She did a smart thing to run off on her own and leave Grayle out of it, but it would have been smarter to have come home when she was caught.”
“Oh you believe now that she left Grayle out of it,” I said.
He nodded. I said: “Do you think she had any particular reason for that?”
He stared at me. “I’ll go for it, whatever it is.”
“She was a killer,” I said. “But so was Malloy. And he was a long way from being all rat. Maybe that Baltimore dick wasn’t so pure as the record shows. Maybe she saw a chance—not to get away—she was tired of dodging by that time—but to give a break to the only man who had ever really given her one.”
Randall stared at me with his mouth open and his eyes unconvinced.
“Hell, she didn’t have to shoot a cop to do that,” he said.
“I’m not saying she was a saint or even a halfway nice girl. Not ever. She wouldn’t kill herself until she was cornered. But what she did and the way she did it, kept her from coming back here for trial. Think that over. And who would that trial hurt most? Who would be least able to bear it? And win, lose or draw, who would pay the biggest price for the show? An old man who had loved not wisely, but too well.”
Randall said sharply: “That’s just sentimental.”
“Sure. It sounded like that when I said it. Probably all a mistake anyway. So long. Did my pink bug ever get back up here?”
He didn’t know what I was talking about.
I rode down to the street floor and went out on the steps of the City Hall. It was a cool day and very clear. You could see a long way—but not as far as Velma had gone.
Finally, and always, there’s Chandler’s overarching, all-informing literary motiff: Marlowe as the lone, questing knight: