Philip Marlowe – Typical Hardboiled Detective

Cynical detectives, overwhelming emotions and a corrupt legal system are the foundations of most of the novels written in the hardboiled genre. The longer you boil an egg the harder it will become and, as the name of the genre suggests, this was the nature of the detectives. As a result of the tough world that they investigated they had to be both smart and powerful, as they would have to face physical altercations throughout the unraveling of the mystery. To highlight the main points of the novel, the over-opinionated detective keeps up a detailed monologue while the investigation progresses. Most hardboiled novels are set between 1920 and 1933, during Prohibition, in an era where organized crime is wide spread and the law is just as corrupt as the criminals.

Raymond Chandler was an author who began writing detective stories in his forties. His most popular character was Philip Marlowe, who was the star of the novels that Chandler wrote during the final 20 years of his life. These books helped define the hardboiled genre and Marlowe’s personality is defined throughout the series of novels. He was a typical detective, with previous careers as an investigator for an insurance company and then the district attorney’s office. After he is fired from the DA’s for ‘talking back,’ the wise-cracking, sarcastic, hard-drinking investigator forms his own detective agency.

Marlowe chooses to run his small office without a secretary, handling all the paperwork himself and refusing to take on divorce cases. The nature of his job dictates that his sarcasm is balanced with a highly intelligent side, and he excels at analyzing situations. He also has high moral values and displays these by not succumbing to the tricks of the genre’s femmes fatales. Although physically intimidating, at just over 6ft and weighing about 190lbs, he avoids causing harm whenever possible, but never hesitates to resort to violence when it is the only solution.

In addition to beating up the bad guys, Marlowe loves to play chess, normally controlling both sides of the board. His preferred drinks are whiskey and brandy, and with his heightened ability to know when somebody really needs a strong one, he also frequently uses them to loosen tongues. Smoking also enhances his ability to come to a conclusion, and he smokes Camels while out but relaxes with a pipe at home. Like most other people Marlowe begins his morning with a cup of coffee, indulging by adding cream, although taking it black at other times.

As a result of Marlowe’s popularity, many of Chandler’s novels were adapted into films including The Big Sleep, Farewell My Lovely and The Long Goodbye. In 2011, the BBC also began a series of radio shows, entitled Classic Chandler, of the Marlowe novels which were received well by the public.

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