Read Le dernier baiser by James Crumley Philippe Garnier Online

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Sughrue, détective privé, doit retrouver Trahearne, un écrivain parti écluser les bars en délaissant ex-épouse, femme et mère. Il finit par le dégoter dans un bistrot. S'étant découvert le même penchant pour l'alcool, les deux hommes repartent à la recherche de Betty Sue, la fille de la patronne, qui n'a pas réapparu depuis dix ans. Ils emmènent dans leur périple Fireball,Sughrue, détective privé, doit retrouver Trahearne, un écrivain parti écluser les bars en délaissant ex-épouse, femme et mère. Il finit par le dégoter dans un bistrot. S'étant découvert le même penchant pour l'alcool, les deux hommes repartent à la recherche de Betty Sue, la fille de la patronne, qui n'a pas réapparu depuis dix ans. Ils emmènent dans leur périple Fireball, un bouledogue amateur de bières. Ils mènent la belle vie, mais toujours point de Betty Sue, qui semble avoir mal tourné...À travers plusieurs états, au sens propre comme au figuré, le lecteur est convié à une road story où se croisent crapules minables et figures pittoresques. Si elle n'en est pas la trame, la nostalgie de l'Ouest, des grands espaces est l'essence même du Dernier baiser. L'inénarrable Sughrue semble promener sa carcasse d'ivrogne comme dans un éternel lendemain d'ivresse. Ce qui ne l'empêche pas d'être bourré... d'humour !...

Title : Le dernier baiser
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9782264007834
Format Type : Mass Market Paperback
Number of Pages : 383 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Le dernier baiser Reviews

  • Paul Bryant
    2019-01-28 23:39

    P BRYANT'S 18 RULES FOR HARD-BOILED PRIVATE EYE NOVELISTS1) The hero of your hard-boiled private-eye genre thriller shall be irresistible to women, mostly. Say about 80%, no need to stretch credulity. He will shag at least four women he encounters during the story and will also gently, sensitively refuse to shag a fifth one, not because he's tired out but because it wouldn't be the right thing. He has morals.2) All the women are sexually bold. They all sleep naked.3) He will take a good few beatings - broken fingers, ribs. Obviously nothing that's going to put him in traction for 6 weeks but enough that we know he's very tough and he suffers. Shagging and suffering - very important in the life of the private eye.4) He will have a perpetual handy store of tough one-liners but will have an unexpected intellectual streak such as a love of chess or TS Eliot or Ludwig Wittgenstein.5) He will plough on through the corkscrew plot twists and not know what the hell he's doing but his instincts will guide him to a just if messy conclusion.6) He will rescue someone from something and it will go horribly wrong. This will show that he's human.7) He will have a quirk, like a comical pet, such as a bulldog who drinks beer, or being a laplander. Anything. But get that quirk.8) He will have no friends and especially no girlfriend - if he had a girlfriend then he'd be cheating when he shags the five women he encounters during the story, and we do not want our readers thinking our hero has no morals. He is a very moral guy.9) He will drink so much during the course of all this that an actual human being would have been hospitalised by page 35.10) He seems as the story starts to have no cases on the go, nothing is doing at all. We have to wonder how he makes ends meet. But maybe, given his sexual prowess, he moonlights as Dick Bold in the Naughty Nurses series from Cinema Triple X - come to think, there IS a resemblance. 11) There will be a person in the story who completely reinvents herself, to the point that when we meet them again on page 125 in their reinvented state we have no idea who they were. (So Diana Sonnderling was really Betty Ann Grot? And Pope John Paul II was really.... Dan Brown?? Or - no - the other way round!!) The identity revelation is a Big Plot Shock and either resolves everything or further complicates it, whatever.12) There will be an older, really sexy woman. Much will be made of the fact that she's Older. But Sexy as Well. This will be piled on with a trowel.13) The bad guys will spend money like water. They'll never run out. If they write off several cars in pursuit of the hero, several more will appear, as if by magic.14) The first lot of bad guys are not the real bad guys, even if they seem really bad.15) The police, the judges, the lawyers, the coroners, they're all on the payroll. 16) Drugs and porn generate vast amounts of money so somewhere at the bubbling plot spring of the story there will be drugs or porn.17) Someone has a guilty secret which will turn out to be very significant to all the plot corkscrews. Usually this is an illegitimate daughter but it could be that the person used to be Dan Brown. 18) Everything must be very believable otherwise by page 125 your readers will already be thinking now, is this a one star book or a two star book? Hmm - one, two? Well, I didn't hate it THAT much. Okay, it's a nice day, I feel pretty good, so two.

  • BillKerwin
    2019-01-24 15:48

    One of the best mysteries of all time. Contains cynicism and good-humor, elegiac sadness, a lot of drinking, a small bit of love and--oh yeah--a damn good plot and enough violence to keep you awake. And best of all, the voice of the detective narrator: charming, infuriating, and ultimately reliable C.W. Sughrue. If Sam Peckinpah wrote mysteries, they would be like this.

  • Glenn Russell
    2019-02-18 18:55

    FINAL REVIEWJames Crumley (1939-2008) - Texas tough guy, Army vet and creator of some of the most colorful crime fiction ever written, this rugged author could do drugs and drink whiskey with the best of them. A watering hole in Missoula, Montana has a bar stool dedicated to James Crumley.From the first page of this, the author’s best known novel starring first-person narrator and slumping hero Montana investigator C. W. Sughrue, "Trahearne had been on this wandering binge for nearly three weeks, and the big man, dressed in rumpled khakis, looked like an old solider after a long campaign, sipping slow beers to wash the taste of death out of his mouth. The dog slumped on the stool beside him like a tired little buddy, only raising his head occasionally for a taste of beer from a dirty ashtray set on the bar." Language a reader will find on every page, which goes to show James Crumley has more to offer than simply the well-worn formula of crime fiction where a detective goes about cracking the case punctuated by wisecracks, drinking, fistfights and bedding babes. Here are a fistful of reasons I love this novel and recommend it highly:VIBRANT, COLORFUL LANGUAGE - To underscore this point, here’s another example: searching for clues in an attempt to locate a girl who ran away from home ten years ago, Sughrue encounters her old high school music teacher, “He came to the screen door before I could knock, a small man with a painfully erect posture, a huge head, and a voice so theatrically deep and resonant that he sounded like a bad imitation of Richard Burton on a drunken Shakespearean lark. Unfortunately, his noble head was as bald as a baby’s butt, except for a stylishly long fringe of fine, graying hair that cuffed the back of his head from ear to ear. He must have splashed a buck’s worth of aftershave lotion across his face, and he was wearing white ducks, a knit polo shirt, and about five pounds of silver and turquoise.” Oh, baby, Sughrue, tell it like it is.RAMOND CHANDLER REDUX - More than simply language, the two detectives, Crumley’s Sughrue and Chandler’s Marlowe share a hardboiled cynicism, sharp tongue, sharp wits and big, tough guy body along with an ability to make intelligent use of both fists and firearms. Crumley published a Viet Nam war novel in his 20s and didn’t read any detective fiction until well into his 30s when his friend, poet Richard Hugo, suggested Chandler. Crumley followed Hugo’s advice and was obviously inspired (Crumley acknowledges Chandler’s strong influence) as he went on to write his own first-rate detective fiction, a string of books rightly regarded as first-rate literature.TUG AT OUR HEARTSTRINGS – Rosie sits on the front steps of her bar and tells Sughrue all about how her long lost baby girl, Betty Sue Flowers, ran away as a high schooler ten years ago. Sughrue tells Rosie too much time has elapsed; he will never be able to find her. Rosie insists, heaves and sobs some more, and presses eighty-seven dollars into his palm. Along with Sughrue, we as readers are moved by the depth of Rosie’s emotion and pain. The missing person hunt is on, from San Francisco to Denver to the state of Oregon with some not-so-fun stops in between - a whole lot of driving for our bear-drinking cynic investigator.TRAGIC HERO, COMIC BUFFFOON – "Big, fat, larger-than-life poet and novelist, drunk and whoremonger Abraham Trahearne is a modern day King Lear and Falstaff all rolled up into one. As a novelist he leaned on his war experience to write about a young lieutenant on a remote island in the Pacific during the final week of World War II so in love with killing he refused to let his men know the war was over. He then went on to write two other novels about, in turn, survival out at sea on a raft and a father and son’s revenge in the woods. After his travels and adventures with his new drinking buddy Sughrue, Trahearne finally comes out the other end of a long, dry spell where he is able to begin what he knows will be his masterpiece. But great art might require serious blood sacrifice. Sound like trouble? It is trouble.THE SIRENS OF ODYSSEUS, THE WITCHES OF MACBETH – Traheane has to deal with three powerful woman in his life – his mother, his ex-wife and his current wife. You will have to read the novel to find out for yourself if one or all three of these women are inspiration-giving sirens or curse-giving witches or a maddening combination. Since I can’t resist the humor, I will share what Trahearn’s mother says about her quitting writing after she hit the jackpot and struck it rich with her two best-sellers “If you’ve read my two novels, then you k now what sort of fairy tales they are,” she said, “and if you’ve talked to my son, you know the truth of my life here. I took money from fools, boy, and I earned it, but don’t give me any bullshit about art.”AMERICA THE SEEDY – Philip Marlowe waded through seedy 1940s Los Angeles and C.W. Sughrue travels through heaps of 1970s seedy Western United States where the scummy world of pornography with its sleazeball promoters and dope-taking porn stars in Chandler’s The Big Sleep reappears on a much larger scale.THE BULLDOG - Darn, you have to love beer drinking Fireball Roberts, slobbering buddy of the good guys and loyal canine pal, forever ready to heed the call to action and sink his teeth into a deserving backside. For me, Fireball Roberts added a real zest to the story – each scene with Fireball was one small step for alcoholic bulldog, one giant leap for page-turning novel.THE GLAD AND THE SAD – The Last Good Kiss is 19 chapters long. If Chapter 18 was the book’s last chapter we would have had a happy ending. But there’s that final Chapter 19, Crumley’s biting, hardboiled social commentary on how 1970s America has taken a tougher, more violent turn in the 30 years since Chandler and Marlowe. Read all about it. You might even shed a tear.

  • Kemper
    2019-02-05 16:09

    James Crumley died last year, and if there were any justice, he'd be alive today and recognized as one of the great modern crime writers while Dan Brown would have had his guts chewed out by weasels and be buried in a pauper's grave instead of getting rich off The Da Vinci Code. But there isn't any justice, and no one knew that better than Crumley.I once read that his novels were like a combination of Raymond Chandler and Hunter Thompson, and that's about as good as a description as you're likely to find. Tough guy fiction that also pondered the real cost of violence with huge quantities of alcohol and drugs and a lot of melancholy and black humor were what Crumley specialized in and this is a great example of it.C.W. Sughrue (one of two main characters Crumley used)is a private detective who was hired to find a drunken writer on a binge. But once Sughrue finds him in a dive bar in California, a fight breaks out that results in the the guy needing to spend a few days in a hospital. While Sughrue waits for the writer to recover, the friendly lady bar owner begs him to take a look for her daughter who vanished into the San Francisco hippie underground 10 years earlier. (This was written in 1978.)Sughrue reluctantly takes on the job, and the drunken writer soon insists on joining him in the search. If Sughrue's liver can take all the drinking, he might just be able to find the girl.This is terrific noir fiction with a severly flawed hero and lots of twists. If you're a hard boiled crime fiction fan and you never read Crumley, track down one of his books and try him.

  • Karl
    2019-01-19 21:56

    One of those books that showed up just at the right time in my life.I enjoyed this book so much it almost hurt. It changed my reading patterns, and what I read. I can't say enough good stuff about this book.This copy is signed by the author.

  • William
    2019-01-26 15:43

    A Masterpiece of crime-noir. Ten stars!This is a truly wonderful crime-noir, with a cast of interesting and complex characters, several hard/real plot twists, not all foreseen. The plot is many-layered and complex, mostly very true to life for the people, times and places. The prose is superb, many passages are exquisite, extraordinary. My favourites are excerpted below As usual with my reviews, please first read the publisher’s blurb/summary of the book. Thank you. The femme fatales here (more than one, in my reading) are each strong and powerful, with hidden motives, and sad and painful secrets. I very much like how Crumley shows where the exquisite Betty Sue came from, how she became who she is in the book, how she made her choices out of pain, fear, abuse and also, love. How men twist the lives of beautiful women, even without intent. It's both poignant and scary; it's the ongoing story of thousands of other beautiful young girls in the world every day, sadly. I know too many of them.Lauren Bacall“The better I get to know men, the more I find myself loving dogs.”- Charles de GaulleThe first half of the book is mostly a kind of road trip, finding clues and creating the history of the Trahearnes and others. The second half is hard-boiled action, full of cruelty, often senseless. There is no redemption here, this is True Noir, dark and sad and painful.Ultimately these kinds of experiences are the core of the philosopher-detective that I love so much, the Bosches and Spensers and Kenzies (both), the events that hard boil their hearts and ruin their lives, the classic tragic heroes, bound to their fate by their own characters.I will be reading more Crumley, and his true dark creation, C. W. Sughrue.Quotes here now, in order from the book as I read. Wonderful, first-class, extraordinary.Nice down-home prose here, echoing a softly forlorn past, an homage to The Grapes of Wrath:This was the place, the place I would have come on my own wandering binge, come here and lodged like a marble in a crack, this place, a haven for California Okies and exiled Texans, a home for country folk lately dispossessed, their eyes so empty of hope that they reflect hot, windy plains, spare, almost Biblical sweeps of horizon broken only by the spines of an orphaned rocking chair, and beyond this, clouded with rage, the reflections of orange groves and ax handles.---I read this as a love poem to Rosie, it brings her to life, it opens our hearts to her:Sadness softened her nasal twang, that ubiquitous accent that had drifted out of the Appalachian hills and hollows, across the southern plains, across the southwestern deserts, insinuating itself all the way to the golden hills of California. But somewhere along the way, Rosie had picked up a gentler accent too, a fragrant voice more suited to whisper throaty, romantic words like Wisteria, or humid phrases like honeysuckle vine, her voice for gentleman callers. “Just fine,” she repeated. Even little displaced Okie girls grow up longing to be gone with some far better wind than that hot, cutting, dusty bite that’s blowing their daddy’s crops to hell and gone. I went to get her a beer, wishing it could be something finer.---Wow! Gumshoe philosophy, hard boiled:I left him there on the sun deck, his huge head cradled in his arms like that of a grotesque baby. As I stepped out the front door, a young girl wearing a halter and cut-offs took that as her cue to push her ten-speed bike up the walk. I wanted to tell her that Gleeson wasn’t home, but her greeting and smile were shy and polite with wonder, her slim, tanned thighs downy with sweat.“Hello,” she said. “Isn’t it a lovely day?” “Stay me with flagons,” I said, “comfort me with apples, for I am sick of love.”“What’s that?” she asked, sweetly bewildered. “Poetry, I think.” Instead of taking her in my arms to protect her, instead of sending her home with a lecture, I walked past her toward my El Camino. Youth endures all things, kings and poetry and love. Everything but time.[Song of Solomon 2:5, King James BibleStay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.]---... ahhhh ... nurse Bea Rolands. What a delight! She's everything I looked for in a girl when I was a young man.---A scene from the magic of puberty. There is always a first, powerful imprinting event in our sexual awakening that stays with us in some form throughout our lives. Some of these we regret, some we transcend, some we cherish, some we fear, some we misunderstand. But we all have that defining first moment within us:Sometimes, though, on these aimless walks, he saw a woman standing naked in front of her second-story back window. Only when it rained, though, as if the gray rain streaked on her dark window made her invisible. But the child could see her, dim but clearly visible beyond the reflections of the windows and stairways across the alley. In the rain, at the window, sometimes lightly touching her dark nipples, sometimes holding the full weight of her large, pale breasts in her white hands, always staring into the cold rain. Never in sunlight, always in rain. Sometimes she tilted her face slowly downward, then she smiled, her gray eyes locked on his through the pane, and hefted her breasts as if they were stones she meant to hurl at him. And sometimes she laughed, and he felt the rain like cold tears on his hot face. At nights he dreamed of sunlight in the alley, and woke to the insistent quiet rush of the gentle rain. --- The lament of the wise and powerful, perhaps.It little profits that an idle king, By this still hearth, among these barren crags,Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and doleUnequal laws unto a savage race,That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.- Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Ulysses”---A bit of Crumley's wonderful prose here:Once you flew sleeping in sunshine, amber limbs locked in flight. Now you lie there rocky still beyond the black chop, your chains blue light. Dark water holds you down. Whales sound deep into the glacier's trace, tender flukes tease your hair, your eyes dream silver scales. Lie still, wait. This long summer must break before endless winter returns with tombstone glaciers singing ice. I will not mourn. When next the world rises warm, men will chip arrowheads from your heart...- a scrap from Trahearne’s poem, found and kept by Sughrue---... The book is filled with gentle humour and wit:Trahearne: Goddamn it, Sughrue, has anybody ever talked to you about your hospitality?" "Never twice," I said.---Sughrue considers himself, and Catherine:Nobody lives forever, nobody stays young long enough. My past seemed like so much excess baggage, my future a series of long goodbyes, my present an empty flask, the last good drink already bitter on my tongue. She still loved Trahearne, still maintained her secret fidelity as if it were a miniature Japanese pine, as tiny and perfect as a porcelain cup, lost in the dark and tangled corner of a once-formal garden gone finally to seed.---Men's inner battle between our higher selves, and our cruel dictators testosterone and evolution:Like too many men, Trahearne and I didn't know how to deal with a woman like [the girl], caught as we were between our own random lusts and a desire for faithful women so primitive and fierce that it must have been innate, atavistic, as uncontrollable as a bodily function. That was when I stopped being angry at the old man.---Wikipedia on Crumley:Crumley has been described as "one of modern crime writing's best practitioners", who was "a patron saint of the post-Vietnam private eye novel" and a cross between Raymond Chandler and Hunter S. Thompson. His book The Last Good Kiss has been described as "the most influential crime novel of the last 50 years."American Book Review100 Best First Lines from Novels#85. When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon. - James Crumley, The Last Good Kiss (1978)Marvellous in so many ways.

  • Dan Schwent
    2019-02-06 15:52

    C.W. Sughrue is hired to rack down an author before he drinks himself to death. Complications ensue and Sughrue takes on a second case while he's waiting for the writer to be healthy enough to travel, finding a girl that's been missing for ten years. Where will Sughrue's cases take him?Ever read a book and wonder what rock you must have been hiding beneath to never hear of it sooner? The Last Good Kiss is one of those books. Numerous reviewers have described it as a cross between Raymond Chandler and Hunter S. Thompson and I saw why not very many pages from the beginning.The story seemed simple until someone took a bullet in the ass and Sughrue had some time on his hands. The search for Betty Sue Flowers takes Sughrue and his companion on a drunken odyssey through the most depraved parts of the west.I have to admit that a lot of the twists caught me by surprise, especially one near the end. By far, my favorite part of the book was the relationship between Sughrue and Trahearne. Sughrue himself is quite a character, part PI, part bartender, all drunk. He's like Phillip Marlowe with twenty consecutive years of bad luck behind him. Crumely's prose reminded me of Chandler's in places but bleaker.That's about all I have to say. It's a crime Crumley isn't more well-known. Four easy stars.Also posted at Shelf Inflicted

  • Algernon
    2019-02-16 23:02

    [9/10] He wrote about the things he saw on binges, about the road, about small towns whose future had become hostage to freeways, about truck-stop waitresses whose best hope is moving to Omaha or Cheyenne, about pasts that hung around like unwelcome ghosts, about bars where the odd survivors of some misunderstood disaster gathered to stare at dusty brown photographs of themselves, to stare at their drinks sepia in their glasses. Noir is for me a literary art form that never gets out of fashion. It's more an atitude, an emotion, a particular way of looking at the world, rather than a series of conventions and clychees. Like blues and jazz music, noir finds ways to reinvent itself while keeping true its classic form. I sometimes find it hard to tell the difference between hardboiled, pulp and true noir, because in my mind they are closely related, and anyway I don't care much about accurate shelving. I care about a good yarn, and James Crumley provided this in spades in this, the first book of his that I tried.I believe the success of his recipe is in a mixing of more than one genre. The backbone of the novel is a classic missing person investigation by a hard fisted, heavy drinking, cynical private investigator with a casual atitude towards breaking the law combined with an ingrained inner sense of justice. To this, Crumley added a road movie structure typical of the seventies (Two Lane Blacktop?) in a souped up El Camino bastard rig, drifting from bar to bar all over California to Utah, Montana, Arizona, etc; a touch of Vietnam War veteran blues, another of Flower Power escapism, a whiff of Southern country bleakness plus a strong flavour of 'buddy cop' crime thriller as an unlikely boozy friendship develops between gumshoe C. W. Sughrue and one of his charges: When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonora, California, drinking the heart out of a fine spring afternoon. Trahearne is a poet and a succesful novelist, drowning his writer's block and his marital woes in alcohol and debauchery. Sughrue proves himself capable to match him not only drink for drink, but also in witty repartee and literary quotes, giving the novel a post-modernist, self-referencing dimension. You might think from my comments that the author has thrown everything into the pot at random, but I would like to stress once more that the plot is solidly anchored in the classic P.I. conventions, the dialogue snappy, the pacing good and the characterization nuanced within the same limitations that require a macho atitude on the men and a preference for loose morals and treasonous hearts for women. Some readers might find that these women fall to easily into the arms of Sughrue, given his self-confessed cranky temperament, beer gut and punched-in face, but I guess it comes with the territory when one pursues noir genre books.The narration is first person in the voice of Sughrue, and for me he is the genuine article: he walks the walk, and talks the talk that first attracted me to the likes of Sam Spade or Philipp Marlowe. Here's a sample of him describing how he became a private investigator after his years in Vietnam: I headed for San Francisco to enjoy the dope and the good times on my own time. But I was too late, too tired to leave, too lazy to work, too old and mean to be a flower child. I found a profession, of a sort, though, finding runaways. The tiredness, the disappointments, the cynical worldview are recurrent themes for both Sughrue and Trahearne, troubles that they sistematically drown in booze, even as they continue the search for Betty Sue Flowers, a girl who run away from a broken home ten years previously. The title of the book is inspired by the same regrets at missed opportunities and wasted years: I wonder if I haven't tapped the last good woman, had the last good drink out of the bottle, and written the last good line, you know, and I can't seem to remember when it happened, can't remember at all. Also,  Nobody lives for ever, nobody stays young long enough. My past seemed like so much excess baggage, my future a series of long goodbyes, my present an empty flask, the last good drink already bitter on my tongue. It's difficult to continue to give details about the story without spoilers, and the twists come early and they come often, so dig in and enjoy the ride. I'll let Trahearne have the final say, a brief resume of the whole Betty Sue Flowers case, or life versus fiction: Stories are like snapshots, son, pictures snatched out of time, with clean, hard edges. But this was life, and life always begins and ends in a bloody muddle, womb to womb, just one big mess, a can of worms left to rot in the sun. If Crumley decides to write another Sughrue novel, I will definitely add it to my reading list.

  • Cathy DuPont
    2019-02-11 17:08

    The International Chocolate Awards first place winner World Final GOLD: Pacari Chocolate (Ecuador) – MontubiaU.S. Open Medal Winners & Grand National ChampionWormtown Brewing in Worcester, MassachusettsCathy DuPont's first place winner for best book 2014-2015The Last Good Kiss by James CrumleyRecently I read about an author (whose name I can't recall) who immersed himself in a subject then when he had learned everything he wanted about it, his interest bucketed and he began again on an entirely different subject.I'm like that about authors. When I find an author I love, I'll read every book he/she has written, read the bio, interviews, etc. and won't read another new author until I'm satiated. Thankfully, I'm not as obsessive now as I've been in the past however I have the second book in this short series of C. W. Sughrue, P.I., on my bed waiting to be read. Crumley wrote a total of 12 books/short stories/screenplays. Index card of C. W. Sughrue, P.I.Remind you of any P.I.'s you've read recently?According to Wiki: He has been described as "one of modern crime writing's best practitioners", who was "a patron saint of the post-Vietnam private eye novel" and a cross between Raymond Chandler and Hunter S. Thompson. His book "The Last Good Kiss" has been described as 'the most influential crime novel of the last 50 years.'I enjoyed reading an interview Crumley gave Noel King, an Australian literary critic and Crumbley describes the primary reason I enjoyed this first book I've ever read by James Crumley:KING: You have mentioned that you enjoy the play with literary language as a crucial part of delivering your crime fictions.CRUMLEY: If the language isn't any fun, there’s no sense in writing the book. Stories come and stories go, but good language lasts forever. Per Wiki: "Crumley had not read any detective fiction until prompted to by Montana poet Richard Hugo, who recommended the work of Raymond Chandler for the quality of his sentences. Crumley finally picked up a copy of one of Chandler's books in Guadalajara, Mexico. Impressed by Chandler's writing, and that of Ross Macdonald, Crumley began writing his first detective novel, The Wrong Case, which was published in 1975. The titles of many of Crumley's books came from Hugo's poems. Unlike some writers in the mid 1970's, Crumley was never received much acclaim in the U.S., however he achieved a cult following (which I'm now one) mostly abroad. Odd how that happens. A toast to James Crumley (in Hawaiian shirt) in a Toronto tavern by authors and admirers (l-r) Harlen Coben, Peter Robinson, Dennis Lehane, Eddie Muller, Laura Lippman, and Ken Bruen (No date given but Crumley died in 2008 at age 68.)I've always been curious as to who influence's writers I enjoy reading and in this case Crumley has influenced Michael Connelly, George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane and Craig McDonald. I have read most of Connelly's books, I have a Pelecanos audio book in my car and have read a hand full of Lehane. Craig McDonald is the only one of the bunch who I haven't read but I will rectify that.And although I haven't read anything about Missoula, Montana, being a hotbed of mystery writers, I recall that James Lee Burke lives in Lilo, about 10 miles south of Missoula. Apparently there are a number of mystery writers who live either permanently or maintain a part-time residence there. And apparently Crumley was assisted somehow in breaking into the industry by none other than mystery publisher, editor and award winning recipient from the MWA, Otto Penzler who Goodreads friend Lynda McCalman and I met in New York City this past October at his bookstore, The Mysterious Bookshop. Wish I would have read Crumley before that unexpected meeting because I surely would have asked Penzler about this incredible but under appreciated James Crumley. I am now a proud groupie of James Crumley.

  • Krok Zero
    2019-02-10 21:42

    It would be an insult to the boozy soul of this book to write a review while sober, so for now I'll just say that it's a goddamn masterpiece of American detective fiction, and the best book I've read this year.Update: OK, I'm still sober but want to get some thoughts down now, so my apologies to the late Mr. Crumley.This is a post-detective novel, cut from the same cloth as '70s anti-mystery films like Penn's Night Moves ("Maybe he would find the girl...maybe he would find himself" could be the tagline for this book as well) and Altman's Long Goodbye, dripping in post-Vietnam, post-hippie declining despairing zeitgeist, and engaged in a complex relationship with the conventions and clichés of its hardboiled forebears. Crumley doesn't exactly reject or revise the classic Chandler model of the tough, cynical, morally centered P.I., but he does present us with a detective whose every action is to some degree in reaction to that model. Sughrue, the drunken dick in question, is one conflicted son of a bitch: conflicted between the romantic mythology of his profession and the dirty shitty world he sees around him; between his urge to help the people he's working for/with and his instinct to get the hell out of there and drink himself to forgetting in some anonymous bar; between the remorse he feels over the terrible acts of violence he committed as a soldier in Vietnam and the violence that he can't stop himself from using as leverage in his investigative work. As he tries to track down a flower child ten years missing, he fears succumbing to the cliché of the detective falling in love with his subject: I was like the rest of them now, I suspected, I wanted her to fit my image of her, wanted her back like she might have been, but I feared the truth of it was that she wanted to stay hidden, to live her own life beyond all those clutching desires. Unless she was dead, and if she was, she had already lived the life she made, as best she could. That's obviously gorgeous writing, but it also indicates a level of both self-awareness (he knows he's falling into an old private-eye pattern) and empathy (also knowing that said pattern denies the missing girl her subjectivity and free will) that defines the character and sets him apart from his ancestors.It so happens that around this vivid protagonist there is a rather brilliant mystery narrative. Crumley maintains a ramshackle, spontaneous vibe even as he fills his story with twists and suspense — including a revelation in the final pages that ends the book on a truly grim, hopeless note — so it should please both the "fuck plot!" and the "plot rules!" factions of crime-fiction appreciation. The setting roams all over the American West, and it's clear that Crumley has probably gone on a few drunken tears across this part of the country himself. And the prose, my god, the prose — Crumley's writing has style and soul and wit, descriptive poetry and zingy dialogue that would make Elmore Leonard cry, a damaged voice that's what you'd expect if Philip Marlowe went to Vietnam and came back to a broken world as a broken man. The other characters are great, too, especially the alcoholic writer Trahearne who is at once Sughrue's target, drinking buddy, ward, betrayer, sidekick and arch-nemesis. Man, I just fucking love this book. It's insane that there has never been a film adaptation, so I hereby announce my intention to write and direct one myself, to star Walton Goggins as Sughrue and John Slattery as Trahearne. Open casting call for the female roles — message me, ladies!

  • Tfitoby
    2019-01-30 23:02

    The first great read of 2013."When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart out of a fine spring afternoon..."Crumley opens with this line and doesn't let up for nearly 300 pages of a rambling, alcohol soaked journey through a series of hard-boiled, depraved, violent and miserable events in the hunt for a beautiful girl missing for the past ten years. His detective SeeDubya is a failed private eye who mostly pays his bills through tending bar and after the amount of mistakes made during this case you can see why.“I chuckled like Aldo Ray. If I had to endure his l'homme du monde act, he had to suffer my jaded alcoholic private eye.”America in the 70s seems to have been a rich source for these broken down private detectives, just for starters the same year that Crumley created Sughrue Lawrence Block released his second Matt Scudder novel Time to Murder and Create, the pair of detectives have so much in common it can't be a coincidence. In literature Richard Brautigan gave us C.Card in the almost bizarro semi-spoof of the hardboiled genre Dreaming of Babylon: A Private Eye Novel 1942, in cinema we were treated to Harry Moseby in Night Moves and the remarkable performance of Elliot Gould as Philip Marlowe in the Long Goodbye.“Stories are like snapshots, pictures snatched out of time, with clean hard edges. But life always begins and ends in a bloody muddle, womb to tomb, just one big mess, a can of worms left to rot in the sun.” Once more it is the latter of these movies that I was reminded of throughout Crumley's wonderful work of third generation hard-boiled noir fiction. Trahearne, the drunken brute of a writer who undertakes a Hunter S. Thompson like cross country drive with the protagonist, is very similar to Sterling Hayden's Roger Wade in his aggressive, drunken rants for example. Structurally there were also a lot of similarities but mostly it is the lost, broken mess of a man that is Sughrue as he valiantly puts his body and soul on the line for his morals and beliefs that is the major comparison and The Last Good Kiss is deeply affecting for it too.There are plot twists that you just don't see coming, things happen and you wonder just how Crumley came up with them and a moment towards the end of the book that made me feel physically ill in sympathy for C.W. Sughrue.Crumley writes this stuff better than just about anyone I've experienced to date, the way he took hold of the genre, seemingly educated himself on Chandler, Hammett, Willeford, Thompson et al and crafted this masterpiece is a remarkable thing to have witnessed, it is a true shame that he isn't more widely known and respected. Having said that it is only through the praise lavished on his work from the fourth generation of hard-boiled and noir writers who claim to be in his debt that I stumbled across this work. People like George Pelecanos and Dennis Lehane have described this book as one of the best pieces of fiction written in the past fifty years. Very high praise indeed and in my experience fully justified.

  • Paromjit
    2019-01-23 16:07

    I cannot believe that I had never heard of James Crumley or this novel with his colourful Montana PI C.W. Sughrue before! I have to say the novel is brilliant and is set in an atmospheric and eye catching world with Sughrue working in a topless bar. Crumley is a gifted writer and wordsmith who deploys language skilfully. He creates a vivid picture of the characters, their quirks and foibles along with superb descriptions. There is a flawed hero, alcohol, women, cynicism and violence that harks back to the best of the hard boiled detective genre. You cannot help but get emotionally engaged with the tragedy that has befallen Rosie and know that Sughrue is doing the right thing by helping to find Betty Sue Flowers, Rosie's daughter. The trail takes Sughrue into the seedy and murky underbelly of the American dream. Infused with humour and plentiful twists, this is a compelling noir. Thanks to Random House, Transworld for a copy of the book via netgalley.

  • Mohammed
    2019-01-24 16:47

    I wouldnt say this is the best PI novel i have read writing wise like say Hammett or the best PI character stories like Matt Scudder novel but it was a good mix of both. I was impressed by his prose, the fact he wasnt interested in just telling entertaining crime story, the novel was more ambitious than that. Calm pace, compassionate, real story that wanted to say something and a PI hero in CW Sughrue that felt so interesting, so real that i could read him doing nothing special for a whole novel.This novel deserve fully its rep as modern classic in the field. Im glad i didnt know what to expect of this novel, author other than knowing the novels famous title. Will be interesting to see if Crumley did write another novel this good or if this was his best effort by far.

  • Adam
    2019-01-27 22:04

    Rambling, alcohol soaked, depressive detective masterpiece from Crumley. Comparisons to Hunter S. Thompson and Peckinpah(the character C.W. yeans for Ride the High Country at one point but a closer touchtone is that similarly depressive, alcohol damaged picaresque Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia) ring as true as Chandler. Great characters that I would follow anywhere and became absorbed with enough to be shocked when the plot turned on a dime, especially by the twists in the final pages that do what they should and turn the knife in the wound and force you to view everything that came before in blood spattered lenses. The turning on its head of many pulp clichés(the femme fatale especially), the gritty, depressive post Vietnam, post 60’s moral climate, and the geography(weird spring towns in Montana, communes in Oregon…these are all place I have been in the American west) all further endear this book to me. This is kind of a holy grail to Pelicanos, Lehane, and Burke and their gritty, character driven, literate, and substance abuse obsessed takes on noir in the decades following this Crumley classic, so if your fan of them find this key influence. Also, for the fact that the Last Good Kiss is a classic piece of American literature.

  • Richard
    2019-01-24 15:56

    A true classic of the crime fiction genre, and for some reason I just got around to it. The book introduces C.W. Sughrue, a Vietnam vet who is now a private dick, usually working boring jobs doing repossessions and divorce cases. As the novel opens, he's finally tracked down Abraham Trahearne, a famous drunken writer who Sughrue was hired to track down before he drinks himself to death. While on the job, he takes another assignment from an old barmaid to track down her daughter, who ran away from home ten years prior. So, accompanied by Trahearne and an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts, Sughrue searches for a girl he's mysteriously drawn to, a girl he only knows from a faded, crumpled photograph.This book inspired almost all of the contemporary crime writers working today. One of the big reasons why it was so influential is because it took your standard detective novel and turned it into something more, with it's brilliant, poetic prose that, before then, would usually be reserved for more "serious" fiction. Sughrue is a great character, also influencing the modern detective characters today, with his mix of not only toughness, humor, and rough charm, but also with a tender empathy that drives his search for Betty Sue and his friendship with Trahearne. Thankfully he's so likeable and gives everyone the benefit of the doubt, because I really didn't like any of the other supporting characters, especially Trahearne. But along with Sughrue, it was Crumley's vivid writing that kept me turning pages, inherently hard-boiled and lyrical at the same time."Nobody lives forever, nobody stays young long enough. My past seemed like so much excess baggage, my future a series of long goodbyes, my present an empty flask, the last good drink already bitter on my tongue."

  • Erik
    2019-02-17 16:02

    Before I can review The Last Good Kiss, there’s something I have to confess: I'm a Raymond Chandler fanboy. To the point where I haven’t read all of his books, not because I haven't had the opportunity, but because I’m trying to space out the few remaining ones as long as I can. If all goes well, I’ll die with exactly one Chandler novel left unread.My first encounter with Raymond Chandler was largely a matter of good fortune: At the time, I would occasionally nab a book off the “1001 books to read before you die” and as I’ve only read about 20%, my randomly choosing a Raymond Chandler had about a 3/800 chance. But choose it I did, and I began reading The Long Goodbye.It was love at first sight. Even now, random lines from the first chapter (which I have read over and over again) will float up from my subconscious – “she slid away from him on the seat, but her voice slid away a lot further than that” OR “A slice of spumoni wouldn’t have melted on her now” – and provide me with a spontaneous grin. I’d never read anything like it. The sharpness of the style and the voice made everything else seem dull. Yet even despite its affected style and artificial dialogue, it was one of the most “real” books I’d read. Both good and bad guys are morally ambiguous, as rotten as often as they are noble for reasons that are somehow both irrational and understandable. The plot meandered messily, as real life tends to do, rather than, e.g., Agatha Christie’s more contrived puzzle tricks, yet the plot resolutions always felt retroactively inevitable, again as life tends to do. But what impressed me most was The Long Goodbye’s successful marriage of both Literary-style prose and Genre-style plot. While I’d certainly read such hybrids before (Ursula K. Le Guin, for example), I’d never seen it done in such a way that so powerfully captured the bizarre mix of grotesquery and nobility that we call the "human condition."After reading the Long Goodbye, I read some of Chandler’s other works. Then I branched out to other noir writers, Hammett of course, but also newer ones like Richard Morgan’s far-future noir sci-fi Altered Carbon. In the meantime, I wrote my own hybrid Mad Max / Noir novel, set in a recently post-apocalyptic America, about a copywriter-turned-hired gun searching for a wife kidnapped by religious fanatics.So I’ve spent a long time brooding over the themes of hard-boiled noir. What is it, exactly, that makes noir work? What is it that appeals to readers? What is its heart and soul?Up until this review, my answer was always that (good) noir serves as a handbook for how to live in a fundamentally corrupt world. That is, how to deal with the rottenness of people without becoming yourself rotten, as that is more or less the line that every noir hero – from Philip Marlowe to Sam Spade to this book’s CW Sughrue – must walk.But that description never fully satisfied me. It’s true, and says something interesting, but I don't think it's enough to explain the appeal. It doesn't quite capture noir's rain-slick soul of chrome and darkness. What else could it be?I sometimes joke, with noir, “The woman always did it." I used to think the femme fatale was a feature of noir, but now, with this review, I've realized it's not merely a feature, it's the primary theme. The femme fatale IS the heart of this genre.It may seem strange for me to claim that noir are, fundamentally, explorations of gender, but a good thinking should bear out that truth. In every good noir book I’ve read, a female character (usually several) form the core of all motivation. Murder over love. Murder over jealousy. Chivalry as morality. Loyalty in the face of irrationality. Noir are, essentially, masculine romances. Furthermore, they advance the hypothesis – whether consciously or not – that women are the engines of emotion, the massive planet-scapes of feeling, around which men orbit like fast-moving satellites.As such, the question for me, in evaluating The Last Good Kiss, is how good are the female characters? How interesting are their interactions with the male characters?Here’s the plot: a woman hires the protagonist, Private Detective CW Sughrue, to find her ex-husband, famous writer Abraham Trahearne. Shortly upon finding him, CW also takes on a second case, to find the long lost daughter of a bar-owner named Rosie. The book is, more or less, the investigation of this second case, which – as always in noir – ends up being connected to the first case.In pursuit of these cases, we get all the oldie goldie female roles:The LOVER, which is the simplest of all noir roles. This is the woman the man sleeps with. And is usually also friends with. She is almost universally depicted as handsome, rather than pretty, and boasts a confidence and a rough wit equal or superior to the protagonist’s. The Last Good Kiss has two, maybe three, of these women, including a ‘bowlegged’ nurse introduced within the first couple chapters. The protagonist always feel most comfortable around the LOVER, possibly because she’s the most masculine. The LOVER is, of course, *NEVER* the wife.The wife is, instead, usually a combination of the HOUSEKEEPER and the TEMPTRESS. That is, she takes care of the boring domestic details. Raising the children, balancing the budget, keeping up social appearances. Contrary to these mundane responsibilities, she is often depicted as extraordinarily beautiful. And she invariably leads a secret life, usually in the form of an affair with the protagonist. She is also often the primary culprit of murder or crime. Which of course tells us something about how men view beautiful, capable women: THEY DON’T TRUST EM! (but they will sleep with them). In the Last Good Kiss, the primary client / the writer’s ex-wife serves as this role. She, for example, actually types Trahearne’s hand-written chapters each day and one of the meta-conflicts of the novel is whether Trahearne can ever escape her influence.Which leads us into the next role of the MOTHER, which is a borderline sinister character, reflecting the complex feelings a man must feel toward his mother: Grateful, even affectionate, yet always trying to escape her gravity well and become his own man. The two MOTHER figures in The Last Kiss are Trahearne’s mother (reflecting the creepy, overly protective side) and the bar-owner Rosie (reflecting the more nurturing side).And last, and most dangerous of all, is what I call THE LIGHTHOUSE. Life is a perpetual storm, and our poor boat is constantly rocking, threatening to toss us into the cold, deep waters below. But in the distance, piercing through the mist and gloom, rises a pale slender tower, glowing bright, offering warmth and security… if only we can reach it. THE LIGHTHOUSE. A woman whose ethereal, undefinable, transcendent beauty promises liberation from the stormy uncertainties of life. An illusion, of course. Yet many a man has invested all his purpose and meaning and happiness in this LIGHTHOUSE, this woman. He builds her up on such a pedestal that she has no hope of ever fulfilling his vision of her...The lighthouse is the heart of every noir and the greatest, final statement of a given work of noir is the truth of the lighthouse: Does she turn out to be a murderess? Does she turn out to be true? Or does she perish, destroyed by the machinations of this corrupt, stormy world?Betty Sue Flowers, the missing girl, is very obviously the LIGHTHOUSE of The Last Good Kiss and as lighthouses go… I’ve seen better.In fact, that’s what I’d like to say about the novel as a whole. I’ve read better.The Last Good Kiss is a very fine specimen of the noir variety. Everything I said about Raymond Chandler’s works holds true – to some extent – with this book. The style is sharp, the descriptions often beautiful (whereas Chandler had a penchant for interior decoration, Crumley manages some wonderful descriptions of nature). The characters are all morally grey, from a pedophile drama teacher to a stalkerish ex-bf to a mafia enforcer with an admirable stoicism. As is usual, the story doesn’t end with the “solving” of the case of the missing girl, Betty Sue Flowers. Rather it’s all about the aftermath, all about the whydunit instead of the whodunit. And the ending perfectly captures noir sensibilities. Seriously, three stars aside, the ending is a superb kidney punch.But the book’s loyalty to the formula is also its greatest weakness. The detective CW Sughrue doesn’t quite manage the tightrope of nobility and cruelty as well as other noir heroes. The delightful mixture of convolution and inevitability in the plot is just a bit more artificial than other noir plots. The female characters don’t quite manage to evolve beyond their types, to truly surprise and tell us something new about the masculine perception of femininity.So The Last Good Kiss is a solid, entertaining, well-written book, but it lacks that special something to allow it to transcend its genre into greater Literature, as Chandler’s works did. In other words, while Chandler’s works are themselves a sort of LIGHTHOUSE, The Last Good Kiss falls very solidly in the category of LOVER. You wouldn’t marry it. You wouldn’t launch a thousand ships over it. But it’s a good pal and handsome enough to go to bed with.

  • John Culuris
    2019-01-27 23:07

    I often use the word “protagonist” because I don’t want to have explain why I picked whichever side I did in the hero/antihero debate, not with line becoming increasingly blurry, certainly not in a synopsis or capsule review, where space is at a premium. One thing is without doubt. James Crumley’s private detective C. W. Sughrue is no role model. A daytime night crawler, he spends more time drunk than sober.Hired to track down a wayward writer on a multi-state binge, the bar fight that begins the novel and ends Sughrue’s quest strands him in Sonoma for a few days, where he promptly picks up another case. The bar owner asks him to find her daughter, who ran away ten years earlier. An impossible task yet he gives it a genuine effort, if not a steady one. This is 1978, so sifting through the remnants of the hippie culture allows plenty of opportunity to partake in alcohol, sex and drugs, particularly as the writer Sughrue originally sought has taken a liking to him and has invited himself along on the investigation. Feeding into each other, they actually find time to do some investigating between the bars and parties. And when Sughrue meets the writer’s family, a self-described viper’s nest, sobriety seems even more like the poorest of options.But as the case untangles and serious acts require serious responses, Sughrue’s deeper code of ethics, long buried somewhere under his surface of self-destruction, comes forward without hesitation. It’s the contradictions--in all the characters, not just Sughrue--that make the tapestry so rich. And the atmosphere. There is such a foreboding layered into the story that you know that even as Sughrue works things out, the pages are not going to wind down to a happy ending.The reader is the better for it. This is an excellent example of elevating the genre.Additional Note: The reference above to “capsule reviews” is because I reposted this from a message board, where, because I covered more than one book in each entry, I tried to keep things to a minimum.

  • Michael
    2019-02-09 18:50

    James Crumley’s private investigator CW Sughrue finds himself searching for a runaway young woman, missing for ten years. But this is not how it started out; he was hired by a woman to find her ex-husband, Abraham Trahearne before he drinks himself to death. A confrontation in the bar that results in Trahearne being injured in hospital puts Sughrue in a position to look for this missing woman.This hard-boiled novel is told in a way I don’t think has been done enough in a pulp crime novel. A parallel narrative exploring the problematic relationship between Sughrue and the wandering alcoholic novelist, and the three femme fatales in Trahearne’s life, just to make things more complex. Apart from that, you have the usual elements that make up a hard-boiled novel; alcohol, money, love, sex, power and violence.Somehow James Crumley has a refreshing voice for this genre; I’m not sure if it is just that I’ve not read enough hard-boiled novels set in the seventies or there is something else there. I would put Crumley somewhere between Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson; he doesn’t have the plotting skills and wit that Chandler has but he isn’t as violent and philosophical as Thompson. The narrative, while in a first person point of view, manages to switch between making the reader feel like they are in the same room trying to piece this mystery together, and then all of a sudden you are inside CW Sughrue head reading all his thoughts, emotions and memories. This isn’t easy to do but Crumley does this so seamlessly that you don’t really notice it happening. This narrative, mixed with the cynicism and low regard to society is what I think makes this book so refreshing.This novel deals a lot with sex; Sughrue’s personal integrity and professional ethics are corrupted by the sexual desire towards Catherine; a desire she uses to manipulate him. Trahearne hasn’t been able to be creative because of his sexual desire with Melinda and his attraction towards his mother. Then there is Betty Sue, who just has a sexual desire towards everyone in the book. It’s important to know at the core of this books portrayal of sexual desire is the cynical belief that such corruption is unavoidable and even inevitable.The Last Good Kiss also deals with the idea of identity and trying to escape your past, but ultimately realising you can’t run. Betty Sue hides her true self between layers of masks and other identities; she is running from her sexually exploitative time in San Francisco but it all comes back in the end. Trahearne can’t escape his infidelities, alcoholism and his ex-wife’s fury. All of them fail to realise that the past defines the present. Their mistakes in the past do not have to define their future but helps them grow; this book just ends up being a twisted celebration of life’s obstacles shaping our personality.Admittedly I found myself being bored in parts of this book and wanting to skim read, but I persevered and found some interesting elements that stopped this from being a generic crime novel. CW Sughrue, is an alcoholic ex-army officer turned private investigator and that dark past is what makes me want to keep reading the series, just to discover what he is running from. The Last Good Kiss has been described as the most influential crime novel of the last 50 years, influencing people like Michael Connelly, George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane and even Neal Stephenson; that alone is an impressive reason to check this book out. While I think I prefer Jim Thompson for style and message, James Crumley is an author I plan to explore more of.This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2013/...

  • Still
    2019-02-06 23:04

    Just finished it. It's late. Gotta get up at 8 in the a.m. to make to a used books sale by 10:00.I don't know what I can say about this book. I'm in a state of awe. If I have it in me I'll try to post a review this weekend.I am staggered by the prose.The story's just fine. The writing is extraordinary.

  • Skip
    2019-01-31 19:48

    Quality mystery about a private detective who is hired by his ex-wife to find an author, who seems to be out on a major bender. When CW finally tracks him down, he becomes obsessed with helping the bartender there find her daughter, who has not been seen in a decade since joining hippies in Haight-Asbury. The two story lines twist and turn, with many surprises along the way.

  • Andrew Nette
    2019-01-28 22:41

    “When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside Sonoma California, drinking the heart out of a fine spring afternoon.”I recently re-read James Crumley’s The Last Good Kiss. It was maybe my third or fourth time, I’m not sure.Whatever the case, I came away from the book thinking two things.Firstly, it probably has the greatest opening line of any book I’ve ever read.Second, it may very well be the best piece of private investigator fiction written. It’s certainly the best one I can remember reading, and I’ve read a lot. The story is a terrific piece of distilled hard-boiled noir, and Crumley is such a fine writer. I was determined to mark the most memorable passages but gave up by page 30. There were just too many of them.The Last Good Kiss starts off with CW Sughrue being paid to search for an alcoholic, larger than life, Norman Mailer-type writer called Abraham Traheane. He tracks Traheane for weeks down endless stretches of black top and numerous dead end bars, almost entering a dream like state, before finally finding him. His thoughts upon locating his quarry are worth repeating in full.“Whenever I found anybody, I always suspected that I deserved more than money in payment. This was the saddest moment of the chase, the silent wait for the apologetic parents or the angry spouse or the law. The process was fine, but the finished product was always ugly. In my business, you need a moral certitude that I no longer even claimed to possess and, every time, when I came to the end of the chase I wanted to walk away.”One job leads to another when the owner of the bar with the bull dog asks Sughrue to find her daughter, who has been missing in San Francisco for ten years. She and her boyfriend where driving around the city one afternoon, they stopped at a red light and she just opened the door, stepped out and was never seen again.Sughrue and Traheane end up looking for the girl together. There are rumours she may have been involved in porn films, got tangled up with the mob, ended up in a remote commune, no one knows. It’s a pointless case and Sughrue is not sure why he is doing it. But that’s not really the point.PI crime fiction gets a bad wrap these days. A lot of people think it’s said everything it can say, that it’s boring and derivative. And, Christ knows, there is certainly a lot of boring PI crime novels out there.But done well, the private investigator is a terrific vehicle to explore society and its underbelly. And in The Last Good Kiss, Crumley uses it to explore the battered bars and small towns of seventies post-Vietnam War American.The Last Good Kiss still blows me away, the complexity of the story, the flawed and damaged nature of the characters, the way it wove counter cultural themes and crime fiction together. Even though it was first published in 1978, it still feels real and urgent.Crumley never enjoyed a great deal of success with his writing while he was alive, and only wrote a handful of books compared to most authors these days. I wish he'd written more.

  • RB
    2019-01-21 17:40

    I really enjoyed James Crumley's, "The Last Good Kiss" but I did not fall in love with it. I fell for many of the side characters who are as rich and fleshed out as the leading cast. I loved the drunk bulldog, the Hunter S. Thompson style of the prose that captured the madness of life, and I loved the fable about family life. The plot here is somewhat simple: our protagonist, Sughrue, is asked to look for a bartender's missing daughter while he's working on a case to find a drunken literary figure. It doesn't take long for this literary type, and his family, to become a major source of conflict and desire and, as Ian Rankin states in his introduction, it's hard not to think of Robert Altman's classic Chandler adaptation, "The Long Kiss Goodbye", and in particular the character of Roger Wade who, like Rankin, I supplanted the character of Trahearne with an image of Sterling Hayden - and the similarities between the two crime tales does not end there. Nevertheless, to the crime novel, Crumley brought a twisted, funny, danger along with a vicious but moral voice - a detective who is by now a cliche but was, in the 70's, very much the person of that time and that, in a way, is how I view this book: it's akin to dipping in on the lives of a family, at a particular moment in the 70's - this household has more than enough to maintain an illusion of joy but instead struggles to stay afloat while various members are scheming behind each other's backs and dragging a drunk detective into their family mess. It's not hard to feel trapped in Sughrue's position, and being so gripped by the narrative, the reader then gets spun into falling for two different women who's affection for our lead peters out like the title of the book (in fact there are several tragic asides about women, could-haves, etc), leaving Sughrue in a world where he is joined in dismay that that last good kiss, metaphorical or literal, is now long gone and what he must do now is no different than what was demanded him at the start of the case: work to survive and don't expect a peck on the cheek for saving a life or solving a case. That's the life he has chosen and it's one where it's a little more random, meaningless, and harmful than an "ordinary existence". Crumley's plot work is not what we remember, or at least, speaking for myself, not what I'll have in my head days from now. But I will remember the commanding, comical voice that was needed in a mystery this unforgiving. I will remember the bit characters, the weird detours, the sad old drunks, their gaze forever frozen on a flickering visage of a woman they once cherished now relegated to a hallucination inside the endless stream of vodka filling their cups.

  • Gerard Cappa
    2019-02-15 00:08

    I had 'The Last Good Kiss' lined up for some time and the post-Christmas bliss of semi-hibernation was the perfect time - I would read it in two or three days.Crumley's style had me hooked straight away; my kind of writer, sit back and enjoy the ride."In the back seat, the bulldog hunkered like a heathen idol, some magical toad with a ruby as large as a clenched fist in his head, glowing through his stoic eyes, an inscrutable snicker mystic upon his face" - that's one of the main characters, a bulldog by the name of Fireball Roberts.It was only after a couple of weeks that I realized it was taking a lot longer to get through this book than I had expected. A 30 course nibble instead of a greedy feast. Why? The plot rolled along nicely enough, the characters were big and bold, and I admired Crumley's style. So why did I find myself reading maybe only a chapter and leaving it aside for a few days until I disciplined myself to get back to it. And every time I did go back I found something else to enjoy."Usually, on those sleepless nighttime trips to the bathroom, I had to take a long look at my own battered, whiskey-worn face, searching it for a glimpse of the face it might have been but for the wasted years, the bars, the long nights. But this night, I rubbed my thumb over the faces locked beneath the brown translucent glare, all the weeping women, and I had no pity left for myself.I had made my own bed and went to it to sleep, then to rise and do what I knew I had to do, to pay what I owed to the women."I love that type of self-pitying ramble, so why was my heart waning even as my head told me this was a great book by a great writer? Were there just too many wasted drinking nights, too much drunken ramble, too much self pity? But how can I get too much of what I like?"We smoked his dope and drank my beer, watched the sun ride the wide open spaces of high blue sky, talked about wagon trains and trails, about what it might have been like, talked about the motorcycle shop he might open down in Santa Cruz, but we didn't talk about Betty Sue Flowers and we didn't get very high."Maybe my own expectations were too high, maybe you have to be American to catch all the nuances and flavour (sorry, flavor) but if I was being totally honest I would rate this as a 3 star read for myself - but I can see that most people will enjoy it as much as I expected to.I still measure Crumley as being up among the best, if not quite making it to the top of the pile, and highly recommend 'The Last Good Kiss' to all PI devotees - just take it as it comes (as Crumley's characters might) and don't undermine it with your own high expectations.

  • Eddie Watkins
    2019-01-28 16:43

    Some hot ass shit.

  •  amapola
    2019-01-25 23:06

    Sfumature di grigioPorca puttana, certe volte mi domando se non mi sono già trombato l’ultima vera donna, scolato l’ultimo vero drink, spremuto dalle meningi l’ultima vera riga. E il bello è che non riesco a ricordarmi quando sarebbe successo, tutto questo.(Abraham Trahearne)Nessuno vive in eterno, nessuno resta giovane abbastanza a lungo. Il mio passato sembrava bagaglio in eccesso, il mio futuro una serie di lunghi addii, il mio presente una fiaschetta vuota, l’ultimo vero drink che già mi faceva la lingua amara.(C.W. Sughrue)Trahearne e Sughrue sono i protagonisti di questo hard-boiled on the road che non lascia scampo; un romanzo duro, che non travalica il genere, ma ne esalta al meglio le caratteristiche.Strade polverose, squallidi motel, desolati bar di provincia, locali malfamati, sesso, alcool, corruzione, donne fatali, uomini allo sbando, violenza, sconfitta… ci sono tutti gli ingredienti giusti, ben amalgamati. Il risultato è un mix di malinconia e ironia; il tono tra il lirico e il grottesco.L’epigrafe riassume bene lo spirito del romanzo: è la prima strofa di una poesia di Richard Hugo intitolata “Sfumature di grigio a Philipsburg”, da cui Crumley ha anche tratto il suggestivo titolo del romanzo.Magari vieni qui, domenica, così per toglierti lo sfizio.Metti che la tua vita sia andata a gambe all’aria.Che l’ultimo vero bacioChe ti hanno dato sia roba di anni e anni fa.T’addentri per le stradeTracciate da dementi, passi davanti ad alberghiChiusi da chissà quanto, a bar che inveceCe l’hanno fatta, ai turpi tentativi della gente del postoDi dare all’esistenza un colpo d’acceleratore.Di ben tenuto ci son solo le chiese. Settant’anniHa compiuto quest’anno la galera. L’unico prigionieroE’ sempre dentro, e non sa più cos’ha fatto.https://youtu.be/WPnOEiehONQ

  • Jon Ureña
    2019-01-19 23:42

    It ticked many of my boxes: California, the seventies, nature, homelessness, obsession, loss, sadness, hopeless romance. I'm not into boozing and whoring around, but I somehow sympathize with characters who do.Some of the most memorable characterization. At times tremendously well written. It felt like the writer needed to tell this story and poured himself into it. It left me with the kind of literary heartache that'll cause me to turn for a while to books on science and writing.There were some questionable parts, sure. Too many characters remained strangely calm after being beaten or shot. Women were too comfortable sleeping around with older alcoholics. But this novel becomes one of my favorites and it's a great example of a book I would never have discovered if it wasn't for Goodreads.

  • Feliks
    2019-01-31 19:03

    This novel gets my undivided admiration for what I consider the finest work of modern American detective fiction--and I'm very tough to please. But its really without peer for what it sets out to do. The only other book I find comparable is 'Blue Belle' by Andrew Vachss--but Vachss works a slightly different side-of-the-street (that violent strain which nods towards Hammett). Crumley descends more so from the elegant Raymond Chandler. Regardless--for modern times, these are the two best works I can name in this whole current-day era. But if I have to choose one, it is Crumley who is supreme for this timeperiod; supreme in upholding the legacy of the traditional hard-boiled detective novel. And his name is largely unknown! He should be a household word. He didn't have the benefit of internet marketing, I suppose--as do Baldacci, McCarthy, or Connolly. One has to wonder: who was he, anyway? Where did he come from? How did he come by his knowledge of human nature? He writes as if he stepped straight out of the 1940s. Adjusting for decade, yes-- he writes as well as anything by Chandler. 'Last Good Kiss' is a landmark work; if you read it will become a personal milestone in your own development as an individual. What makes Crumley good is his focus of human reality; this is a book written before the falseness of internet/cellphones engulfed the globe and people have no idea who they are anymore. Crumley reminds you how interesting people used to be able to be; before the Facebook world made us all thoroughly sick of each other; before ubiquitous electronics removed our sense of 'surprise' at life. Crumley--like Vachs--reminds us that PEOPLE are still the most surprising and unpredictable force existing around us. People have substrata and texture, people hold murky depths undiscovered inside them. 'Last Good' Kiss' is detective fiction which has 'something else to say' besides just mystery-solving. Its social commentary. It transcends its genre. Sure, its a crackling good detective yarn; evocative; pungent--but so much more else besides. Crumley can tell you who you are; show you where you stand. Crumley describes the world correctly as it (once) was and how people (used to) make it great. I'm making it a point to absorb his other novels on my upcoming reading list. He's a writer so good I'll take whatever he does, carte blanche..

  • Mike
    2019-02-14 18:42

    Excellent Crime/Mystery fiction from James Crumley. I had never heard of Mr. Crumley before reading this book; His style is vivid, intense, manic, brooding and magnificent! Montana private detective CW Shugrue is a Viet Nam vet who lives in, on and around the fringes of society. A hard drinking, drug taking, good ol' boy with more guts than brains who has a knack for finding people, Shugrue is the perfect choice to track down author Abraham Trahearne on his lasted drunken bender. Once he finds the old reprobate (sitting in a bar with an alcoholic bulldog), Shugrue is persuaded - in exchange for eighty-seven dollars and a few free beers - to take on another case looking for a teenage runaway who hasn't been heard from in nearly ten years. The unrepentant author, the bulldog, and the detective set out together on the road trip to end all road trips... it twists... it turns... it ends... it begins again... The real joy in this book isn't so much the mystery, it's the journey that takes place while trying to bring the whole thing together. The story - gritty and often dark - is steeped heavily in past transgressions and unflinching accountability. It examines, to some extent, the reasons - sometimes known to them but more often unknown - that compels people to do the things they do. Author Crumley draws several comparisons to other writers; to Raymond Chandler for his lyrical, near poetic narrative, to Elmore Leonard for his ability to create oddball, eccentric characters that are too ridiculous to be real and too real to be entirely fictional, and (as another reviewer noted) to Hunter S. Thompson for the sheer madness of it all.Full of violence, sexual situations, strong language, and drug use, this book is NOT recommended for sensitive readers but if you're a fan of hard-boiled detective fiction (and don't mind a little suspension of disbelief) you'll probably like it.

  • BookwormDH
    2019-01-26 18:53

    Meet Private Detective C. W. Sughrue. Private detectives are supposed to find missing persons and solve crimes. But more often than not Sughrue is the one committing the crimes – everything from grand theft auto to criminal stupidity. All washed down with a hearty dose of whisky and regret.At the end of a three-week hunt for a runaway bestselling author, Sughrue winds up in a ramshackle bar, with an alcoholic bulldog. The landlady’s daughter vanished a decade ago and now she wants Sughrue to find her. His search will take him to the deepest, darkest depths of San Francisco’s underbelly, a place as fascinating, frightening and flawed as he is. This book stands out from many others - in a very good way.Pure entertainment with a great and funny storyline. Full of tongue-in-cheek humour, and without the political correctness we encounter today.Don't get me wrong. There is plenty of grit and encounters that will open your eyes, and probably not for the faint hearted at points.A solid 4* - Hard to put it down in words. You just have to read it.Highly enjoyable & recommended!

  • Luca Lesi
    2019-01-26 16:52

    Un grande libro, un hardboiled scritto in maniera mirabile come solo Il Grande Sonno di Raymond Chandler è riuscito.Se dovessi indicare, come nelle altre recensioni, una canzone, vengono in mente Isaac Hayes e il grande Marving Gay con lo splendido video di Inner City Blues(cliccate perchè merita)Se vi piace questo tipo ti musica allora L'ultimo vero bacio è il vostro libro altrimenti leggetelo lo stesso perchè e semplicemente fantastico !Scritto nel 1978, è un romanzo complesso ed articolato, pieno di ritmo, traboccante azione, stilisticamente perfetto , in grado di trasformare in odori e suoni le parole e gli ambienti pieni di fumo, bui e sporchi nei quali si muove a suo agio il detective C.W. Sughrue . "Libertà significa solo non aver niente da perdere, proprio così, e la notte è piccola per noi, troppo piccolina" e non è un caso che siano le parole uate da Fred Buscaglione (o è il contrario ?)Ottima la traduzione di Luca Conti per Enauidi di cui vi do un lungo assaggio che, da solo, vale una recensione :Alla fine lo beccai, Abraham Trahearne: lo beccai che beveva birra in compagnia di un bulldog alcolizzato, tale Fireball Roberts, in una sgangherata bettola appena fuori Sonoma, California, intento a spremere anche le ultime gocce di un bel pomeriggio di primavera. Erano quasi tre settimane che Trahearne vagabondava in pieno delirio alcolico; un omaccione in uno stazzonato abito di tela cachi, simile a un vecchio soldato reduce da una lunga campagna e tutto preso a centellinare una birra dopo l’altra, come a volersi togliere di bocca il sapore della morte. Il cane si era sbracato sullo sgabello lì accanto, a mo’ di piccolo e sfinito commilitone, e di quando in quando rialzava la testa per bere una sorsata di birra da un lercio portacenere piazzato sul bancone. Nessuno dei due mi degnò di un solo sguardo, mentre mi infilavo sullo sgabello che separava il bulldog dagli altri due avventori, due loschi e sfaccendati meccanici che ragionavano di sussidi di disoccupazione mai arrivati, dei loro più recenti arresti per guida in stato d’ubriachezza, di luoghi in cui poter ancora recuperare la catena di trasmissione di una Chevro-let del 1957. Quei volti bitorzoluti e quegli accenti nasali uscivano dritti da altri luoghi, da altre epoche. Dalle tempeste di polvere degli anni Trenta, da una vecchia carretta fatta in casa, un camioncino Model T avviato a scomparire nel tramonto. Quando mi sedetti, mi lanciarono il tipico sguardo della gente di campagna, gli occhi stretti come fessure, e mi esaminaro-no ben bene, neanche fossi chissà che rottame pronto a fornir loro qualche pezzo di ricambio. Li salutai con un allegro cenno del capo, per annunciare che sì, l’aria di un relitto umano ce la potevo pure avere, ma mica ero ancora pronto per la demolizione. Ricambiarono il mio tacito saluto, chinando la testa con espressione vacua e pensosa, come a voler insinuare che, sì, va bene, ma a mettere in piedi un bell’incidente non ci voleva nulla. Già sbatacchiato da fin troppi chilometri su strade sbagliate, li lasciai al corso dei loro pensieri. Ordinai una birra alla donna dietro il bancone, una tipa di mezza età che si scosse dalle sue fantasticherie per accennare un sorriso assonnato. Non appena udì stappare la bottiglia, il bulldog si scosse dal suo torpore alcolico, ruttò come un drago e tirò su le strette natiche, per poi ondeggiare su tre traballanti sgabelli - tra i fumi di birra rancida e di fiatate canine - col chiaro obiettivo di propormi un affare: un bacio umido e bavoso in cambio di una sorsata di birra. Non abboccai, e lui decise di alzare la posta sbavandomi sul gomito mezzo ustionato dal sole. Trahearne abbaiò un secco ordine e schizzò una piccola quantità di birra nel portacenere. Il bulldog mi rifilò un’occhiata dolente e un sospiro, e trotterellò verso quel magro ma sicuro bottino. Nel togliermi dal braccio la saliva del cane, con un cencio bagnato che avevo trovato sul bancone e che era stato usato chissà quante altre volte al-lo stesso scopo, chiesi alla barista se c’era un telefono pubblico. Lei indicò in silenzio i meandri polverosi e grigiastri che si aprivano dietro il tavolo da biliardo, là dove un telefono di colore nero spuntava a mezz’aria da ombre cineree. Quando gli passai davanti, Trahearne aveva messo un robusto braccio attorno al collo tutto pieghe del bulldog, e gli recitava una serie di versi nell’orecchio mozzo. «Davanti a una scogliera ci troviamo, quasi infranta oramai… davanti a questo forte vento del Pacifico… questo… fetore salato di balena… ah, cri-sto… ma che testoni siamo stati, amico mio, ma come ci siamo ridotti… pu-re noi finiremo nella merda…» Poi sfoderò una risatina senza senso, come un vecchio che brancola alla ricerca degli occhiali. Parlava da solo? Non poteva fregarmene di meno. Anch’io parlavo da solo, e da un bel pezzo.Era proprio quel che facevo, in effetti, il pomeriggio in cui l’ex moglie di Trahearne mi aveva chiamato; cazzeggiavo nel mio ufficetto di Meriwether, Montana, che vantava una splendida vista sul cassonetto traboccante, dall’altra parte del vicolo, giusto dietro il discount, e cercavo di convincermi che l’aver poco lavoro non era un grosso problema, anzi mi andava quasi a genio. Poi era squillato il telefono.