"The Big Sleep" was the first of Raymond Chandler's classic mystery novels featuring the character of Philip Marlowe, the clever detective portrayed by Humphrey Bogart in the 1946 film adaptation and Robert Mitchum in the 1978 adaptation. In this novel, Marlowe is hired by the old, crippled, and rich General Sternwood to find out who has blackmailed him. To Marlowe it seems simple enough - at first. Then he meets the General's two daughters: troublesome, cute little sister Carmen, and Vivian, the watchful big sister with a gambling problem. From there, things get messy.
The novel is, at times, a little confusing - as was the '46 movie. There is at least one murder which is never resolved - in fact, it's dropped completely. But flaws like these didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book. Instead, they made me enjoy it more. It makes it all the more mysterious and bizarre. All is resolved in the end, though.
One of the high points of the book is the snappy, witty dialogue, most of which comes from Marlowe. I had the same though reading this that I did when I read "The Maltese Falcon" recently: it's amazing how much the English language has changed in a period of about seventy years.
Throughout the novel, you get a fine sense of how Raymond Chandler saw Los Angeles in 1939. It's a dark, sprawling city filled with criminals and crime to the point where the cops don't even care anymore. In a way, I was reminded of the city depicted in Robert Rodriguez's "Sin City". The last true hero in the city is Marlowe, an unconventional hero to be sure. And that's because he's a human hero. A hero from the real world. He's not perfect, but he tries hard to do what's right.
"The Big Sleep" is a marvelous book, a true masterpiece of detective fiction. I would most definitely recommend it.
Vintage crime fiction doesn't come any better than this. 'Nuff said. Raymond Chandler was at the top of his form (in my opinion) when he penned this tale. While the Phillip Marlowe tales that followed were wonderfully exquisite as well, they all paled in comparison to the original. Should be on the top 100 books to read in your lifetime.
I'm no fan of mysteries, except perhaps the general mystery surrounding life, and I see crime enough in the every day without feeling the need to return to it for entertainment, and I'm not at all a fan of the hard-boiled detective with his hard-to-stomach arrogance (and what an apt adjective, this "hard-boiled," the golden yolk turned gray and flavorless when held over the flame too long). But I'm always a fan of a well written book, no matter what the genre. And Chandler's book qualifies. … more
Though I'm not much of a detective fiction fan, I was drawn to try this one because I'd heard the names of Raymond Chandler, and Philip Marlowe, his creation, since I was a boy. A short, moody and convoluted tale of a tough-guy detective with a brain and real moxie, this one lives up to its hard boiled reputation. Marlowe shows up at the Sternwood estate to undertake a quickie investigation into an apparent blackmail attempt (and, hopefully, to suppress the matter) at the behest of a dying old man … more
"His thin, claw-like hands were folded loosely on the rug, purple-nailed. A few locks of dry white hair clung to his scalp, like wild flowers fighting for life on a bare rock." Published in 1939, when Raymond Chandler was 50, this is the first of the Philip Marlowe novels. Its bursts of sex, violence, and explosively direct prose changed detective fiction forever. "She was trouble. She was tall and rangy and strong-looking. Her hair was black and wiry and parted in the middle. She had a good mouth and a good chin. There was a sulky droop to her lips and the lower lip was full."