My rating: 4/5. Pages: 231. Author: Raymond Chandler. Link: The big sleep
If a book leaves a mild taste of bourbon in your throat, smoke from a rolled up tobacco in your lungs and lead from a colt .38 special in your stomach, you might have just lived through a noir crime fiction.
A paralyzed dying millionaire hires Los Angeles PI, Philip Marlowe, to handle the blackmailer of one of his two troublesome daughters. But it is not a simple case of blackmailing, Marlowe finds himself getting pulled into a deeper muddle of extortion, kidnapping, pornography, seduction and murder.
The big sleep is not just a detective story, it is a piece of neat literature. The narration is compulsive and gripping. Like his other novels, the big sleep is written by cannabalising short stories that were already published in the magazine, the black mask. Chandler combined those stories to create the plot for big sleep. Cannabalising stories often resulted in loose ends; like in this novel, who killed the chauffeur?
Even thought the plot stretches from one angle to another; from backmailing and pornography to murder and kidnapping, the story itself is not much of a page turner. Chandler never cared much about the plot, his focus was always on the complex characters and the milieu in which they operated.
The detective stories of today owe a huge debt to the likes of Raymond chandler. The big sleep is number #2 on the CWA list of best crime novels of all time and the reason is Raymond chandler’s Philip Marlowe. A character whose likes can be glimpsed in too few a men. (Sam spade from Maltese falcon comes quite close).
Phillip Marlowe is a strong willed detective whose choices often transcends the boundaries of moral ambiguity. Throughout the novel he balances the scales for doing what is in best interest of his client and fulfilling his duty to the law. Like a true detective he leaked out very little information. Information comes out of him like a radio announcer. His demeanor is calm and composed, his actions carried out with a deft simplicity of a man who thinks before he acts. For him, victory is more verbal than physical.
Not a chapter goes by without a quote or a witty remark. The sarcasm in the narration will make you grin ear to ear. It is a must read for all who enjoy crime novels for their plot as well as for the narration.
Some of my favorite quotes from the novel:
“A nice state of affairs when a man has to indulge his vices by proxy.”
“He was like Caesar, a husband to women and a wife to men.”
“It had the austere simplicity of fiction rather than the tangled woof of fact.”
“She gave me one of those smiles the lips have forgotten before they reach the eyes.”