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The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

The Big Sleep (1939)

by Raymond Chandler

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Philip Marlowe (1)

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8,222231680 (3.98)598
Marlowe takes on an assignment from the Sternwood family: the child-woman Carmen, the sultry Frances, and the ancient General too far past his prime to cope with his daughters' brand of trouble. Stepping in to deal with a case of blackmail, Marlowe follows a trail that leads him into a landscape littered with murder and deception.… (more)
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» See also 598 mentions

English (219)  Spanish (4)  Swedish (2)  French (2)  Hebrew (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (231)
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A Book of Detective Fiction*

If you have seen the Humphrey Bogart version of The Big Sleep, reading the book will clarify all the odd points of the movie that didn't quite make sense. It will also take you in a different direction than the movie plot line (although it hews close enough to be recognizable as the same story) and surprise you with the quality of Raymond Chandler's writing. Gone is any relationship between Marlowe and the elder Sternwood daughter (ignoring a brief session of kissing that bears no resemblance to romance). The motive for the murder of Joe Brody is much clearer, and you will understand its nebulous quality in the film by remembering the censorship laws in place in 1940's Hollywood that prevented multiple seedy aspects of the novel from finding their way on screen. The book also provides a background of police corruption in Los Angeles that sheds light on some - but not all - of Marlowe's deductions. His linking of the younger Sternwood daughter to the disappearance of the elder daughter's husband is still too conveniently made, but the book's denouement neatly wraps up the story (while leaving the door open for a follow-on novel) and reads more like the end of The Great Gatsby than The Friends of Eddie Coyle.

Chandler main literary device is simile, and he is masterful with it. In the opening scene of Marlowe meeting General Sternwood, he plants an impression of decay and vice in the reader's mind through comparisons to green aquarium water, dead men's fingers and prostitutes. He also lays the groundwork for Marlowe as the under-informed outsider walking into a dangerous trap with a reference to a boiled New England dinner. Chandler has the perfect simile for most of his characters and uses them sparingly but so effectively that the character can be easily understood without the cheap descriptions usually found in crime fiction. The Big Sleep is a satisfying, fast paced tale well worth the read regardless of your knowledge of the movie or feelings about "hard-boiled" detective fiction.

* - I've had to set my themed reading list aside for now, as I'm taking a couple literature classes this summer through a state program that provides free tuition for Texas residents over 55. This novel is assigned for my Modern and Contemporary British Literature class that's focused on detective fiction. ( )
  skavlanj | May 22, 2020 |
Chandler moves fast and we see glimpses of his greatness in this novel. Chandler is known for witty banter and interesting simile and metaphor, highlighting the post depression era like nobody else. His stories give us a peak back in time of Hollywood and Los Angeles during and after WWII. Phillip Marlow is a private eye tough with a heart of gold. He has a personal code that he lives by, even though his is reluctant to admit it even to himself. He's one of the good ones, and this first story sets that tone well. It's a pretty simple plot, stop a guy from blackmailing an elderly general with two bratty but beautiful girls. Marlow sees plenty of action and the case turns sour, but of course he's barely one step ahead of everyone. Highly recommended for style and glimpse into history. ( )
  Kardaen | Apr 24, 2020 |
What a fun romp through a hardboiled detective classic! I had never read the book, having only seen the Bogey/Bacall movie. But what a book this was. I loved the pacing, the dialogue, the tone. Chandler can really paint a noir picture. It's hard to put this down once you pick it up. It won't change your worldview and probably won't make you smarter or dumber, but you'll be glad to have read it. It's a great example of why reading is called pleasure.

There's also a great deal of awesome lines in here. One of my favorites was:

"Mr. Cobb was my escort," she said. "Such a nice escort, Mr. Cobb. So attentive. You should see him sober. I should see him sober. Somebody should see him sober. I mean, just for the record. So it could become a part of history, that brief flashing moment, soon buried in time, but never forgotten– when Larry Cobb was sober." ( )
  drew_asson | Mar 22, 2020 |
Really hard-boiled and funny, this book is stodgy and still fluffy. The protagonist, Philip Marlowe, is a detective who is hired by an old, decrepit man who has two young, mischievous daughters who are surrounded by mysterious circumstances and a web of lies.

This is extremely well-written, and the dialogue is superb. Marlowe is a sublime character with a lot of jagged edges, constantly under threat but always merely picking up 25 dollars a day, plus expenses (of which most are for whiskey).

A shining, exciting and polished example of detective noir at its best and most simple. ( )
  pivic | Mar 20, 2020 |
Marlowe starts out working to find the blackmailer, only encounters lots of bodies instead. This was a movie with Humphrey Bogart, and the movie was very faithful to the book. ( )
  LindaLeeJacobs | Feb 15, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 219 (next | show all)
Novela repleta de nervio y de ingeniosos diálogos. Es un caso de chantaje el que lleva a Marlowe a asomarse a las alcantarillas de una sociedad en apariencia espléndida.
added by Pakoniet | editLecturalia

» Add other authors (49 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Raymond Chandlerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Adams, TomCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Del Buono, OresteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gould, ElliottNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kidder, HarveyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ortlepp, GunarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

Is contained in

The Big Sleep / Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler: Stories and Early Novels: Pulp Stories / The Big Sleep / Farewell, My Lovely / The High Window (Library of America) by Raymond Chandler

A Treasury of Great Mysteries [Volume 2] by Howard Haycraft

The Big Sleep and Other Novels by Raymond Chandler

The Big Sleep/Farewell, My Lovely/The High Window by Raymond Chandler

The Chandler Collection: Volume 1 by Raymond Chandler

Has the (non-series) sequel

Has the adaptation

Is expanded in


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It was about eleven o'clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills.
Such a lot of guns around town, and so few brains.
Whoever had done it had meant business. Dead men are heavier than broken hearts.
It had the austere simplicity of fiction rather than the tangled woof of fact.
What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or in a marble tower on top of a high hill? You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that. Oil and water were the same as wind and air to you. You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell.
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Book description
Plot Summary: The decrepit General Sternwood hires Detective Marlowe to investigate Geiger, the man who is blackmailing him. Marlowe discovers Geiger is running a pornography lending library under the front of an antique book store. Marlowe tries to confront Geiger, but finds Geiger dead along with evidence that Geiger has been taking nude photos of Sternwood’s youngest daughter Carmen. While Marlowe takes the drugged Carmen home, Geiger’s body disappears along with the photographic evidence. As one murder leads to another, Marlowe must follow the clues to protect the Sternwood family from its own dark secrets.
Appeal Factors: Private investigator subgenre. Narrated in the first-person by Marlowe. Primary characters are complex. The atmosphere is dark and brooding. The frame highlights the dark underbelly of L.A. The language is succinct, but very descriptive; powerful, gritty and realistic. Action scenes are suspenseful and fairly fast-paced, with space for reflection in between. The reader is drawn in as Marlowe uncovers each new layer of clues. Violent, but not graphic.
Haiku summary
General's daughters
are handful for Marlowe...but
who did slay chauffeur?

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2.5 15
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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140108920, 0141037598

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