Chandler's unabashed masterpiece, this novel is his only work to truly transcend the pulp genre and rank as first-rate literature. All of Chandler's books have gorgeous language and bafflingly labyrinthine plots, but this one stands out because of the author's poignant willingness to stare into his own soul.
His stalwart, incorruptible hero Marlowe is hired to guard a washed-up, alcoholic, self-loathing writer who derides his own work as trash, and it's hard not to see the troubled Raymond Chandler in that character. This was the second-to-last Marlowe novel Chandler ever completed, and there's a forlorn air of melancholy around the whole thing.
The Long Goodbye is the best American detective novel, bar none.