I never quite saw Marlowe as a playboy detective; are you sure you're not confusing him with Lord Peter Wimsey or some other such chinless British wonder? (That was a joke, by the way, so don't anyone send the British Mystery Mafia after me, please.)
I have to say Marlowe's fastidious - and well-advised - resistance of Carmen Sternwood makes perfect sense to me. Always avoid sleeping with a crazed murderous nymphomaniac, is a cardinal rule which has served me wonderfully well through my life thus far.
I don't think Chandler was the type to bend to publishing company pressure in this sort of decision (in fact he spikily dropped one company following a somewhat minor criticism from them of "The Long Goodbye"), and would put down Marlowe's late, and merely relative promiscuity, to his wife's death and the permission this seemed to grant him for his character to indulge more freely in such pursuits. Also his friendship with Ian Fleming may have influenced him more than a little in this.
As for Marlowe's relationship with Anne Riordan, in the late short story "Pencil Man" in which she helps him with the case, Chandler makes it clear that it is as yet unconsummated, despite her willingness. His excuse - lame enough, though with a sort of crooked chivalry to it - is that he has had too many women to deserve one like her. So he marries a millinairess instead. Good choice, Marlowe.
From: Patrick King <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Sun, 20 June, 2010 18:20:03
Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: The Chandler / Hammett Ellroy-inspired debate
Marlowe has a ridiculous degree of success with women in this one, but not quite so utterly ridiculous as in "Playback" which I also enjoyed, but for me wins hands down in any contest to find his weakest work.
Marlowe is always ridiculously successful with women. Chandler pretty well set the standard for the playboy detective with Marlowe. Admittedly, Marlowe seldom takes real advantage of his opportunities to the extent James Bond did for example. But from THE BIG SLEEP on, nearly every attractive woman in every book seems to find Marlowe irresistible. Chandler was a bit of a priss when it came to actually engaging his characters in sex. He was much less of a priss in real life, losing one good job and undermining his marriage at least 3 times to his philandering nature. This is curious as it seems he was unable to function without his wife's input and he withered each time she left him.
I suspect that the more torrid sex in THE LONG GOODBYE & PLAYBACK were encouraged and requested by his publisher. Certainly it was becoming clear that readers liked that vicarious thrill. It's strongly implied in FAREWELL MY LOVELY that Marlowe's relationship with Anne Riordan is sexual. There can be no doubt about Linda Loring or Betty Mayfield in LGB & PB.
The memory of young Carmen Sternwood showing up naked in his bed in THE BIG SLEEP, however, tells it to us right at the beginning. The fact that he threw her out just makes him a tougher man than I am.
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