25 November 2013

Review: THE BIG SLEEP, Raymond Chandler

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 311 KB
  • Print Length: 177 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1604445181
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (July 7, 2005)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002RI9AH2
  • originally published 1939
Synopsis (Amazon)

The Big Sleep is Raymond Chandler's most famous and popular novel of all

Los Angeles PI Philip Marlowe is working for the Sternwood family. Old man Sternwood, crippled and wheelchair-bound, is being given the squeeze by a blackmailer and he wants Marlowe to make the problem go away. But with Sternwood's two wild, devil-may-care daughters prowling LA's seedy backstreets, Marlowe's got his work cut out - and that's before he stumbles over the first corpse . . .

My Take

It is probably highly improper for a crime fiction addict to admit in public that she has never read any Raymond Chandler, or at least I don't think I have. Of course, I have heard of Philip Marlowe, the P.I. that Chandler created, the model for many P.Is for future generations of writers.

And so why hadn't I read THE BIG SLEEP before now? Probably because American noir has not really been my genre of choice, because I mainly read British, Australian, and translated crime fiction.

I can see how the gun-packing Marlowe is very different to sleuths created in Europe at approximately the same time. Poirot, Marple, and Maigret are altogether more cerebral with blood and guns rarely sighted. Many modern American sleuths are really just more modern versions of Marlowe, solving more modern murders.

To be quite honest though, I didn't find THE BIG SLEEP as captivating as I had expected. It felt a bit dated, although Chandler is a good model for characterisation and descriptive prose. It probably still should be regarded as essential reading for crime fiction students, especially those who are interested in the history of the genre. But then again I have managed pretty well without, haven't I?

My rating: 4.2

Philip Marlowe (Fantastic Fiction)
1. The Big Sleep (1939)
2. Farewell, My Lovely (1940)
3. The High Window (1942)
4. The Lady in the Lake (1943)
5. The Little Sister (1949)
6. The Long Goodbye (1953)
7. Playback (1958)
8. Poodle Springs (1989) (with Robert B Parker)
The Simple Art of Murder (1950)


Irene said...

I must admit, I too have not read this author, my son has but not I. I wonder if you've noticed in some of the dramas of Agatha Christine, Ms. Marples' nephew "Raymond", I believe this is a loose reference to Raymond Chandlier. What do you think, my son noticed this, when we were watching.

Kerrie said...

I suppose it could have been a sort of tribute Irene, although Miss Marple's nephew was an author not a private investigator, wasn't he?

Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

I like that you've written that you don't think you've read any Raymond Chandler! I think that too (and there some other authors/books that fall into that category). :)

I can't say that I'm that tempted to buy this but if the library has a copy (which I doubt) I'll certainly check it out.

Margot Kinberg said...

Kerrie - I agree that there are definitely aspects of this one that feel dated. I noticed for instance the 'isms.' But Chandler had such an impact on the genre that I think he's still quite relevant. And I do like his style.

TracyK said...

I just read this book recently and had the opposite reaction. I liked the book a lot more than I expected to. But more for the style than anything else, and probably greatly influenced by my love of the movie. I am going to try another couple of books by Chandler to see what I think.

Barry Ergang said...

Try THE LONG GOODBYE, which many (myself included) consider to be Chandler's greatest novel, and which is my all-time-favorite novel, mystery or other.

Richard said...

I first read this in 1975, read it again about ten years later, read it a third time in about 2004. I've been delighted and impressed with it every time, and still think it's the epitome of American hard-boiled fiction, along with Chandler's Long Goodbye and Hammett's Red Harvest and Dain Curse.

Chandler needs to be read with recognition of the time the book was written and published. Take it in context. Any book will seem dated (all of Christie, for instance) unless the reader can be accepting of the time it was written.


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