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The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

The Big Sleep (original 1939; edition 1988)

by Raymond Chandler

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Title:The Big Sleep
Authors:Raymond Chandler
Info:Vintage (1988), Paperback, 139 pages
Collections:Your library

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The big sleep by Raymond Chandler (1939)

1001 (40) 1001 books (38) 1930s (39) 20th century (93) American (87) American literature (96) California (65) Chandler (37) classic (70) classics (34) crime (367) crime fiction (145) detective (249) detective fiction (76) fiction (798) hardboiled (173) literature (41) Los Angeles (102) marlowe (41) murder (39) mystery (753) noir (390) novel (146) Philip Marlowe (150) private investigator (56) read (93) thriller (38) to-read (120) unread (42) USA (46)

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General Sternwood, a millionaire in 1930s Los Angeles, hires Phillip Marlowe to investigate a man who claims to have controversial photos of his socialite daughter. However, as Marlowe's investigation progresses, he finds himself in for a little more than he bargained for (excuse the cliche).

In the last few years, I have developed quite an appetite for detective fiction. However, in the past few months, I've wanted to dig deep into the hard-boiled and noir sub-genre. What better place to start than with one that is considered one of the founding fathers of all modern detective fiction.

Chandler not only presents us with a great mystery but also his much revered original style. After finishing this book, I can see why his prose was so influential on a generation of writers. So many memorable quotes are contained within this book! I've selected just a few of my favorites but there are more than I can possibly remember.

It must have been something to be an avid reader when this hit shelves back in 1939. To read this and take in something special that rarely existed must have been refreshing to say the least. With so many signature characters and series' that clutter bookstores nowadays, it's hard to imagine seeing something like this for the first time.

I've certainly become a Marlowe fan after just this one outing and I can't wait to get my hands on subsequent novels. ( )
  branimal | Apr 1, 2014 |
In The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler introduces his private eye Philip Marlowe showcasing his skills in a case that begins as a simple blackmail problem that quickly escalates to murder.

This book is one of the defining ones for noir mysteries and as such, it hits pretty much every known trope of the subgenre. But being the originator of those tropes means that the book does it a way that comes across as fresh. I absolutely loved Chandler’s writing style – it came across as simple and easy, flowing smoothly for a quick read, yet it was also dense and poetic, even flowery at times with its descriptions. Nonetheless, the characters and plots don’t suffer for all this. Indeed, we learn as much, if not more, about each character through their dialogue as opposed to a lengthy description. And the plot has plenty of twists and action-filled scenes, with bullets flying, poisons ingested, and so forth.

Obviously the most notable character in this book is that of Philip Marlowe himself, who narrates the book in first person. He’s not the most introspective character per se, so we learn about him on the fly through his actions and a few things he tells other characters. Marlowe has a past working with law enforcement but found he’s better suited at being his own boss. He stays true to his own morals and sense of justice. He’s tough as nails, remaining calm and not afraid no matter what the situation is – even if he’s been held at gunpoint. Marlowe also has a way with words, throwing out witty quips at a moment’s notice that help to lighten the mood of an otherwise dark and gritty tale. And Marlowe’s apparently irresistible to all women, as nearly every woman he encounters ends up throwing herself at him, in one of the few truly eye-rolling things about this book. All in all, he’s a character that’s got a mysterious air about him yet somehow feels almost like an “everyman.” Marlowe is definitely the kind of character that makes sense to have a series built around him, as there’s plenty beneath the surface to explore.

The plot of the book can be described as multi-layered or convoluted, depending on how you want to look at it. There’s definitely a lot of moving pieces to keep track of as there are actually multiple mysteries and a large cast of characters. That does keep it interest though; unlike some mystery books where you find yourself figuring out “whodunit” way too early on, you are constantly on your toes here as each new crime lands in Marlowe’s lap. Indeed, even though I had already been exposed to the story in the past (and in the recent past, at that), I found myself still being surprised along the way as I did not remember all of the reveals.

An interesting thing about this book was how surprisingly fresh it felt. There are definitely many things in the book that are a product of its time, including the way women are depicted. The basic plot line itself is pretty much obsolete in our modern era, with the setting off point being a naked photograph sold on the sly. Still, the book didn’t feel dated as a whole and reading it didn’t seem very different than reading or watching a contemporary noir mystery. It was a strange sensation to have this revelation, but I think it’s a testament to Chandler’s writing skills.

For the audiophile – I read the audio book version narrated by actor Elliott Gould, with whom I was surprisingly impressed. He did an excellent job with the various voices and kept the pacing of the book just right.

All in all, I was impressed with this book and will definitely be looking into other Chandler books in the future. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Mar 9, 2014 |
In The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler introduces his private eye Philip Marlowe showcasing his skills in a case that begins as a simple blackmail problem that quickly escalates to murder.

This particular edition was a bit of a mistake on my part; I was looking to inter-library loan an audio version of The Big Sleep and accidentally selected this one, which is only an adaptation, not the entire book. What it loses in content, it makes up for in style: This version includes a full-cast reading complete with sound effects. For instance, some of the descriptive narrative is quickly disposed of by including the simple sound of rain falling. That being said though, there is still narration from Marlowe, so this is not simply a case of dialogue with no context. Nonetheless, in order to reduce the entire book to an hour and a half long adaptation, many things do get brushed over, such as Marlowe's actual feet-to-the-ground detective work, to move right along to the dialogue and action. I also felt like the denouement was rushed through a little too much.

Still, this adaptation contains a great deal of word-for-word dialogue and narration while remaining true to the characters and story. I could see this adaptation being appropriate for those who really love Chandler/Marlowe and are looking for a new interpretation on a favorite work. It could also work for those who like to get right to the meat of a story without superfluous description. Personally, I was much happier when I got to the version I really wanted - the full book! ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Mar 9, 2014 |
A great book, from one of the great masters of noir mysteries. Philip Marlowe is the quintessential noir hero, a man with a good idea of who he is in a world that seems to have no meaning. A short read, but well worth the time, even for those with no interest in mysteries. ( )
  Hexum2600 | Feb 28, 2014 |
5 for style, 1-2 for plot. Love the voice of the character, utterly dull plot. ( )
  StigE | Feb 22, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (55 possible)

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

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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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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?

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0394758285, Paperback)

"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."

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:46:48 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

When a case of blackmail involving the daughter of a California millionaire leads to murder, the inimitable Philip Marlowe is stirred into action as he becomes embroiled in a troublesome case of extortion complicated by kidnapping, pornography, seduction, and murder.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

Three editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140108920, 014118261X, 0141037598

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