The plot finds detective Philip Marlowe in the employ of General Sternwood, a wealthy but dying oil tycoon. Sternwood wants Marlowe to track down a blackmailer who is trying to bleed some money out of the old general. The problem is Sternwood's two daughters, Carmen and Vivian. Both women have major problems; Carmen is just plain weird, suffering from seizures and a penchant for sleeping around with scum of the earth types. Vivian is not much better; she is a heavy gambler who dates (and marries) mob types. In the course of working the case, Marlowe uncovers underground pornography shops, blackmailers, gambling dens, a couple of murders, and other seedy events in the growing town of Los Angeles.
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