Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

This is the first Philip Marlowe book. Marlowe would go on to become one of the great icons among hardboiled detectives. Marlowe is a private investigator. He will tell you that he has a problem with authority. At the beginning of the novel he is hired by General Sternwood, a very wealthy, very elderly client with two wild and reckless daughters. Marlowe thinks that he is handling a simple case. On the surface a man is just asking for a gambling debt owed by the youngest daughter be paid. Marlowe thinks that blackmail may be involved. Before the novel is over he will have dealt with the blackmail. Of course the case turns out to be bigger than he thought. Before all is over he will have to deal with blackmailers, gamblers, pornographers, and murderers. That is the simple part. The hard part is keeping his client’s daughters out of the trouble that they seemed determined to end up in.

The Big Sleep is a great hardboiled detective novel. Chandler’s prose is masterful in the way he brings out the story. Written, like many hardboiled detective stories, in the first person the character of Marlowe is a fascinating blend of pragmatic man of the world and the idealist trying to do the right thing. The book is very much a product of it’s time and some of the language and attitudes might offend some readers today, but don’t let it bother you as you experience this wonderful piece of American literature. Get The Big Sleep today and enjoy.

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