I just read Playback for the first time this month, having read & re-read other Chandler novels & short stories for years. I liked it much better than I expected. It's rather short, as if he was never able to work up much interest. It seems to have too much sex. The trouble with the short stories is that (no doubt because the pulps required it) every time the narrator goes through a door, there's bound to be either a corpse or somebody with a gun on the other side. He toned that down in the novels, The Big Sleep is the only one in which Marlowe actually kills anyone, & there are just two fights in Playback. Maybe the first is unnecessary at that-it doesn't seem like a sufficient occasion for someone to draw a gun, & what was Marlowe hoping to accomplish, anyway? But now as the violence is toned down, suddenly the sex gets turned up. There was no point in competing with Spillane. Women fall for Marlowe too quickly. It was bad enough in Farewell, My Lovely. The first incident, with the secretary, is slightly justified by establishing how Marlowe still thinks of Loren, to appear again at the end, but I could have done without it more happily.
On the other hand, then, there are some interesting experiments with prose, like short chapters & long, one of the short being just a monologue by somebody in the town, an interesting change of pace.
This report prepared by Christoph Melchert