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The Raymond Chandler Omnibus (1971)

by Raymond Chandler

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Philip Marlowe (Samlingsvolym 1-4)

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436847,347 (4.22)14
The big sleep -- Farewell, my lovely -- The high window -- The lady in the lake

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The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

This one is the first entry in my [The Raymond Chandler Omnibus]. Easily, the value of the omnibus is Lawrence Clark Powell's forewarnings which takes a deep dive into the history of early Los Angeles, and its inclusion in the literature of the time. Reading the foreword, I could taste the salty fog settling over the newly paved streets and the as-yet developed hills overlooking the burgeoning metropolis. It's the perfect scene setter for Chandler's razor sharp novel. The prose is spare, and packs a punch in every sentence. Marlowe is a character I look forward to reading again. This particular story had elements that have echoed through the literature focused on the time - pornography, madness, and petty crooks with an eye on the next rung of the criminal ladder. James Elroy owes a lot to Chandler, and has done a fabulous job of picking up where his predecessor left off. ( )
  blackdogbooks | Nov 25, 2020 |

The Big Sleep is the first Raymond Chandler novel (cannibalized from some of his previously published short stories) to feature the famous private detective Philip Marlowe, and to this day stands as a classic of crime fiction noir. The locations, characters, and atmosphere are as colorful as they are dark, a captivating portrait of the underbelly of Los Angeles that has been luring readers since it was first published in 1939.

I find that fans of straight mystery novels don't enjoy Chandler's works as much as others; the convoluted plots full of double-crosses and long-shots tend to defy traditional logic, resulting in dubious conclusions and the occasional loose end. The Big Sleep actually contains the perfect example of the latter, as it is never clearly explained - or indeed, even known by the author - who killed the Chauffeur. Most mystery fans prefer air tight solutions that show meticulous attention to detail, and look at leftover issues like this as lazy craftsmanship.

Of course, the reason for all of this is that the mystery isn't really the story. Raymond Chandler's true interest is in the players, not the game. Philip Marlowe is an enigmatic character, a lone private detective who seemingly drifts unattached through the high and low ends of L.A. society, an aloof spectator who seems to leave a wake of chaos when he actually attempts to get involved in the affairs of others. The schemes and alliances of everyone from high society down through the criminal underground may seem archaic to the reader, but they are almost as confounding to us as the human element is to Marlowe, as his own personal code of ethics - some may even call it warped chivalry - is constantly at odds with everyone he confronts. I've always found that the scene between Marlowe and his client's younger daughter Carmen at his apartment perfectly encapsulates this fractured relationship between him and society. Entering his apartment to find the playfully crazy Carmen naked in his bed, Marlowe tells her to get dressed and attempts to ignore her by studying a chess puzzle already set nearby. During his multiple attempts to reason with Carmen, Marlowe at one point examines the chessboard and, replacing a move, muses that "Knights had no meaning in this game. It wasn’t a game for knights." It isn't that Marlowe isn't the only one playing a game in The Big Sleep, but he seems to be the only one interested in why the pieces move the way they do, and one of the few looking beyond the board.

I could stretch the chess metaphor for three or four more paragraphs. Honest. The point is that novels like The Big Sleep are, like the title itself, about far more than solving a mystery. Through Marlowe, Chandler exposes the human condition in all of its illogical and unfathomable ugliness, with the full realization that there most likely is no real solution. Marlowe's chess puzzle remains unsolved, and even the solution of the case is not revealed to anyone for whom it might make a difference. It's this existential undertone that separates classic crime noir like The Big Sleep from your standard whodunit, and the mesmerizing dilemma of the human condition that guarantees the book's place in literary history, in spite of any flaws.
  smichaelwilson | Jul 11, 2017 |
Raymond Chandler’s blatant over the top racism almost ruined Farewell, My Lovely for me as his descriptions of the black characters in the beginning (throughout actually) of the novel; had me ready to toss it in a lake. Luckily, for me, I stuck with it and was rewarded with one of the best mysteries I’ve ever read. It ranks right up there with my other all-time monster mystery, Dashiell Hammetts’ The Maltese Falcon. I agree with another reviewer; his antiquated view on many of the books characters (particularly minorities and gays) really dates this work; but, it is still a piece of mystery literary mastery. The Big Sleep was also an excellent read and highly recommended. I read these stories when I was in my original works phase. I would watch a great film noir movie find the book it was based on and read the novel. I haven’t gotten to the last two stories, yet. ( )
  LeadTrac | Apr 18, 2016 |
This volume collects the first four Philip Marlowe novels - The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely, The High Window, and The Lady in the Lake. I had read the first two previously, so I won't recap my reviews of them. The High Window was a nice, crisp read with the plot revolving around Marlowe being hired to recover a stolen gold doubloon coin. In a world of femme fatales, tough mugs, and a mousey secretary employed by a strange family, the detective goes about searching for clues amidst dead bodies and jumpy cops. It is classic Chandler and a pleasure to read! ( )
  Stahl-Ricco | Jan 23, 2016 |
Terrific story, great write but aging badly, especially for women, minorities and gays. ( )
  KymmAC | Jul 29, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Chandler, Raymondprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Powell, Lawrence ClarkForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The big sleep -- Farewell, my lovely -- The high window -- The lady in the lake

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