The Goodbye Coast by Joe Ide is a well written detective novel with lots of twists, turns and surprises. The characters are well developed and provide  an interesting conduit for social commentary, off beat humor, and existential rumination to flow. 

The main character is none other than detective Philip Marlowe of Raymond Chandler fame, cut in the classic ‘40s genre of the rugged individualistic gumshoe and dropped into contemporary Southern California Hollywood culture.

Marlowe went into law enforcement because he believed in right and wrong, and wanted justice for crime victims and punishment for perpetrators. Marlowe loved the process of uncovering hidden truths to make things right. But he got kicked out of the police academy because he was unable to do things their way. Marlowe lives with ambiguity. He wavers from feeling that “he’s the ruler of his own private universe” to “he’s just a cog in a random universe” to “there are forces greater than himself effecting the universe.”

That drives him a little crazy, I think.

I particularly enjoyed it when author Ide used unexpected analogies and word choice to accentuate a point:

“A breeze made the willows shimmer. A blue dragonfly skimmed over the golden yarrow… ‘A business acquaintance said you returned his retainer because he was, I quote “a festering boil on the rectum of humanity.’ Yesterday I had lunch with one of your former clients. You told her to get her fallopian tubes filled with cement so her husband sperm would turn back and her eggs would die.” … “Even among hardened criminals, Tato and his crew were freaks, mutants, cancer cells that didn’t metastasize but stayed within themselves, waiting like moray eels to strike out of the darkness with an evil grin.”

Even though Marlowe has a cynical view of humanity, he has an appreciation for certain idiosyncrasies of others and their life experiences. Marlowe sees life as a stream of challenges and some people make the most of it and, if not prosper, endure and mature, while others go the opposite route. But he’s not sure why, or what makes the difference. 

Marlowe believes some people never change, some people who want to change, try, but can’t, and some wish they would want to want to change but they all get shipwrecked by the storms of life within and without. 

Marlowe meets with his mentor and friend Basilio, when he gives Marlowe the case and twice after for advice. Each time they meet at Basilio’s favorite restaurant Panda Express, which seems to be a sarcaastic innuendo. Each time they meet, Basilio wears a t-shirt bearing a similar sounding but unequivocally different message: “Vote for Shaniqua”… “Congrats Shaniqua”… “Impeach Shaniqua”

Maybe that is to highlight stages of human interaction and perspective. Here, the “Urban Dictionary” says that “Shaniqua” is a name that mocks an African American inner city female posing a “ghetto” vibe. 

Maybe a good detective story should mock the lives we live by calling us out to answer why we live the way do, and what imprisons us from living better, more honest and humane lives. The Goodbye Coast is that good detective story. 

Previous article“Autocorrect Thinks I’m Dead” by Deaf playwright Aimee Chou comes to Sound Theatre Company
Next articleAfter fighting his school bully, young boy goes to a meditation retreat in author Minh Le’s “Enlighten Me”