This might just be my favourite book. Not only in terms of its content, but it is also the first book I bought through abebooks, and so it represents the start of a very dangerous collecting habit. I remember when I finished Playback being a bit upset that there was nothing more after that. At the same time this came through post for only £12 and even if there wasn't anything left to read there was still plenty to collect.
I decided early on that I could't afford 1st edtions in their jackets, which has left me in the wonderful position now, whereby I have the same empty feeling of finishing the last Chandler, but can look forward to hunting down jacketed copies. (I did once have a jacketed copy of The Long Good-Bye but had to sell it to fund other acquisitions.)
In terms of the content of this book, one scene has produced a great new item to collect. Marlowe frequently plays through chess games, but here he sets out to solve a mate in 11 moves problem.
I've never been any good at chess but can occasionally solve the 2 or 3 moves problems in the papers. I wanted to see how I rated against The Sphinx. Finding it online used to be impossible so I tried to track down the book by Blackburn [sic].
I haven't examined every work by Blackburne, but I've been through enough of them to be bored of looking any more. In a moment of inspiration I thought 'if he gets the name wrong, maybe he gets the end-papers wrong...', had a quick look online for Sphinx, Frontispiece, Chess, and found an book by Staunton. By some miracle another (tatty) copy was on eBay that day, and without knowing it my travel in hypercollecting had begun.
I've never got close to solving this and can see why Marlowe struggled with it (the solution is printed at somewhere in the text; so far I've resisted cheating).
Another great Chandler find came when I was nowhere near being able to afford even a poor copy of The Big Sleep and had to settle for the first french edition. Copies of Black Mask Magazine, which feature his early short stories, are also a bit too pricey for me, but to get his first ever published piece, all you had to do was wait for a 1909 volume of Chamber's Journal.
Sorry for the poor image, but this poem is the first appearance of anything by Raymond Chandler in print, we even get his name at the end.