“I opened the other envelope. It contained a photograph of a girl. The pose suggested a natural ease, or a lot of experience in being photographed. It showed darkish hair which might possibly have been red, a wide clear forehead, serious eyes, high cheekbones, nervous nostrils and a mouth which was not giving anything away. It was a fine-drawn, almost a taut face, and not a happy one”
“She put a hard-boiled sneer on her face and gave me plenty of time to get used to it”
“I wouldn’t say she looked exactly wistful, but neither did she look as
hard to get as a controlling interest in General Motors”
“Javonen smiled – very slightly. Call it a down payment on a smile.”
“Lucille held her left hand up and moved it around to get a flash from the little stone. “I hate it,”
she said. “I hate it like I hate the sunshine and the summer and the bright stars and the full moon.
That’s how I hate it”.
I picked up the key and my suitcase and left them. A little more of that and I’d be falling
in love with myself. I might even give myself a small unpretentious diamond ring.”
“He was California from the tips of his port wine loafers to the buttoned and tieless
brown and yellow checked shirt inside his rough cream sports jacket.”
“On a dance floor half a dozen couples were throwing themselves around
with the reckless abandon of a night watchman with arthritis.”
“She was quite a doll. She wore a white belted raincoat, no hat, a well-cherished head of platinum hair, booties to match the raincoat, a folding plastic umbrella, a pair of blue-gray eyes that looked at me as if I had said a dirty word. I helped her off with her raincoat. She smelled very nice. She had a pair of legs – so far as I could determine – that were not painful to look at. She wore night sheer stockings. I stared at them rather intently, especially when she crossed her legs and held out a cigarette to be lighted”
“Don’t kid yourself. You’re a dirty low-down detective. Kiss me.”
“There was nothing to it. The Super Chief was on time, as it almost always is,
and the subject was as easy to spot as a kangaroo in a dinner jacket.”
“The next hour was three hours long”
“The voice on the telephone seemed to be sharp and peremptory, but I didn’t hear too well what
it said, partly because I was only half awake and partly because I was holding the receiver
“Guns never settle anything, I said. They are just a fast curtain to a bad second act”
“I’m part Chinese, part Hawaiian, part Filipino, and part nigger. You’d hate to be me”
“What rattled and thumped was a knotted towel full of melting ice cubes. Somebody who loved
me very much had put them on the back of my head. Somebody who loved me less had bashed
in the back of my skull. It could have been the same person. People have moods.”
“Wherever I went, whatever I did, this was what I would come back to.
A blank wall in a meaningless room in a meaningless house.”
“Common sense is the guy who tells you that you ought to have had your brakes relined last week before you smashed a front end this week. Common sense is the Monday morning quarterback who could have won the ball game if he had been on the team. But he never is. He’s high up in the stands with a flask on his hip. Common sense is the little man in a grey suit who never makes a mistake in addition. But it’s always someone else’s money he’s adding up.”
“How can such a hard man be so gentle? she asked wonderingly.
If I wasn’t hard, I wouldn’t be alive. If I couldn’t ever be gentle,
I wouldn’t deserve to be alive.”
“If God were omnipresent and omniscient in any literal sense, he wouldn’t have bothered
to make the universe at all. There is no success where there is no possibility of failure,
no art without the resistance of the medium.”
Raymond Chandler, Playback, 1958
Playback is the only Chandler’s novel
never to have been adapted into a film.