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PULP Paperbacks: “Farewell, My Lovely”, a 1944 edition

12 Dec

He was looking up at the dusty windows with a sort of ecstatic fixity of expression, like a hunky immigrant catching his first sight of the Statue of Liberty. He was a big man but not more than six feet five inches tall and not wider than a beer truck. He was about ten feet away from me. His arms hung loose at his sides and a forgotten cigar smoked behind his enormous fingers. […] Even on Central Avenue, not the quietest dressed street in the world, he looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food.

It’s not hard to see where the cover artist got his inspiration for this pulp paperback classic. We have written before about the marvellous Brattle Book Shop in Boston, and many of its second-hand pulps are now on our office shelves gathering primary colour dust. Just yesterday, we hit the store again, and PULPable picked up this 1944 edition of Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely. The artist, credited simply ‘Hoffman’, clearly read at least a few of the sentences above before going to work that day.

Front cover of a 1946 Pocket Books edition of "Farewell, My Lovely"

His second novel, Chandler fought hard for the unusually wistful title. Published by Knopf, the company’s founders Alfred and Blanche Knopf were worried that the name Farewell, My Lovely might, instead of attracting the usual rough-and-tumble reader of detective noir, encourage romance fans to pick up the book.

During writing, Chandler’s working title had been The Second Murderer, but he had dropped the Shakespearean reference in favour of a whimsical ‘farewell’. In a 1940 letter to George Harmon Coxe, he wrote:

I didn’t know it had been announced under that name [The Second Murderer]. When I turned the manuscript in they howled like hell about the title, which is not at all a mystery title, but they gave in. We’ll see.

By October, the book had been published and sales were disappointing. Further, more conciliatory, letters to Blanche Knopf suggest that Chandler felt harried into choosing his title and had received little guidance from her or Alfred. Nevertheless, Farewell stands the test of time, and remains for many people Chandler’s best. Unlike its predecessor, The Big Sleep, it leaves no loose ends to its central mystery; and its other competitor for top noir, The Long Goodbye, can drift a little too close to melancholy and further away from the arch tone that makes his earlier novels so much more fun.

But like the cover artist, Pocket Books’ back-cover blurber must have felt the need to jazz up a slightly whimsical title with some terrible prose:

Beneath the headline “Bad Blood Flows Freely”, we have a poorly punctuated attempt at summarising Chandler’s novel in the style of Chandler.

This is a thrilling story – shockingly realistic – of a world in which viciousness is normal. In it you will find Philip Marlowe, Private Detective, and a rare rogue’s gallery of unbeautiful characters, including: a giant who did not know his own strength; a Negro who ends up with a broken neck; a gin-drinking drab with a fine new radio; a ravishingly beautiful blonde with a rich and sadly tolerant husband, but no morals; an Indian with the shoulders of a blacksmith and the legs of a chimpanzee; a charlatan who calls himself a psychic consultant; a doctor with a plug-ugly for an assistant; a gambler; and an honest cop and several crooked ones.

Who could resist these unbeautifuls?

In addition to being a wonderful pulp paperback, this books is also a testament to the US’s involvement at the time in a World War. At the bottom right-hand corner of the back cover, pulp readers are advised to “send this book to a boy in the armed forces anywhere for only 3 cents”. Pocket Books’ inside covers also

Pocket Books helps the war effort

encouraged people to recycle any paper items they had – including pulps – so that they could be donated to the war effort and converted into “a container for a quart of blood plasma that will save a GI’s life”, “an airborne container… that will drop food or medicine to liberated peoples” or, thrillingly, “it may show up as the shell case for the shell, or the bomb band for the bomb, that will be the very last explosion to finally shatter the nerve and will-to-fight of the enemy!” In short, “save every scrap and you’ll help end the scrap.” Perhaps, then, Chandler and his fellow pulp authors did have a hand in bringing the bad guys to justice in 1945.

Though original sales of Farewell, My Lovely might have been lower than hoped, these Pocket Books editions kept the title in circulation for years to come. In a 1951 letter to their Vice President, Freeman Lewis, Chandler thanked Lewis with his tongue firmly in cheek for the new Pocket Books’ edition of Farewell:

Is it permissible to wonder why the people who do illustrations and covers can’t pay some attention to the text? The bedspring shown in your cover illustration is entirely wrong, since it is a type of spring which is very light and would be useless as a weapon. If your illustrator had taken the trouble to read merely a few lines at the top of page 144 in the book, he might not have made a fool of himself and incidentally of me, since the kind of spring I was writing about would be a very efficient weapon, almost as efficient as a blackjack. The kind he illustrated would be of no use at all!

DLR, 12.12.10

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