The Big Sleep; Farewell, My Lovely; The High Window Hardcover – Oct 15 2002
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From Library Journal
It was a big year for Chandler: not only did Knopf release his full canon in this hardcover trio, which includes some long-out-of-print stories, but Vintage also released a new set of paperbacks (LJ 7/02) of all his books. (LJ 9/15/02)
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
“Raymond Chandler is a master.” –New York Times
“Chandler wrote like a slumming angel and invested the sun-blinded streets of Los Angeles with a romantic presence.” –Ross Macdonald
“Raymond Chandler invented a new way of talking about America, and America has never looked the same to us since.” –Paul Auster
“The prose rises to heights of unself-conscious eloquence, and we realize with a jolt of excitement that we are in the presence of not a mere action-tale teller, but a stylist, a writer with a vision…The reader is captivated by Chandler’s seductive prose.” –Joyce Carol Oates, New York Review of Books
“Chandler is one of my favorite writers. His books bear rereading every few years. The novels are a perfect snapshot of an American past, and yet the ruined romanticism of the voice is as fresh as if they were written yesterday.” –Jonathan Lethem
“Chandler seems to have invented our post-war dream lives–the tough but tender hero, the dangerous blonde, the rain-washed sidewalks, and the roar of the traffic (and the ocean) in the distance…Chandler is the classic lonely romantic outsider for our times, and American literature, as well as English, would be the poorer for his absence.” –Pico Iyer
With a new Introduction by Diane Johnson
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As for the novels themselves, well, suffice to say, they are classics: addictive, page-turning, vivid, funny, haunting. The characters are original and believable. All rendered in tight prose and witty, convincing dialogues.
The short novels included in this book all feature LA private eye Phillip Marlowe and are apparently set in the '30s and '40s. I really liked the following aspects of these novels:
1) It is really fun to read Chandler's descriptions of the places, clothes, cars, slang, mannerisms, characters, etc. of the time. Marlowe's wise-crack observations, while cliched, often had me laughing out loud;
2) While Chandler uses all of the stock characters (smooth but menacing nightclub owners, sultry crooners, wise-guy PIs, effete rich buffoons, etc.), he really makes most of them come alive with the dialogue and their interactions with each other. In other words, Chandler does a great job of taking what would seem to be card-board cut-out characters and breathing life into them;
3) Marlowe is able to resolve most conflicts with a couple glasses of whiskey and some wise-cracks, especially if a "dame" is involved. Today, it seems like most such conflicts would be resolved with a burst of AK-47 fire or worse. While no doubt highly idealized, Chandler's more innocent world is appealing to read about.
4) For what it is worth, I am a big fan of the Everyman's Library series (which this edition is part of)--they are attractive, have good heft, include a page-marker ribbon, etc.
Probably my only criticism of these novels is that the plots are a bit contrived, but I guess that is part of the fun.
- Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep
And thus began the criteria for what a private eye would look like and what his moral code would be. Raymond Chandler, author of the Philip Marlowe series of crime novels, set the bar high and generations would follow in his writing footsteps.
Raymond Chandler is considered to be one of the most influential writers of crime fiction and his phenomenal creation of the detective Philip Marlowe has survived decades.
Every time a modern reader discovers a new private eye who is facing some interesting and very tough times but is able to do it with integrity and a strict moral code alongwith a "soldier's eye"; you are meeting Raymond Chandler the writer all over again. And Philip Marlowe his creation is playing a pivotal role in the background.
Raymond Chandler wrote seven detective novels but THE BIG SLEEP is probably his best out of the three in this edition. He was in his fifties when he wrote these novels; yet the first novel cited: THE BIG SLEEP would become an American landmark in the hard-boiled detective genre and would really launch Chandler into the icon that he is today.
The reader will discover unified themes with strong and fully developed characters with incredible imagery and metaphors. Chandler's literary style is distinctive and very crisp. You will love his writing and it brings back nostalgia for a time long past. If you are new to hard-boiled detective stories, this is the series that I would start with
In the first novel THE BIG SLEEP you will be introduced to the Sternwoods: General Sternwood, Vivian and Carmen and all three are interesting studies and all three as General Sternwood notes hasn't "any more moral sense than a cat." General Sternwood is on his deathbed and hired Philip Marlowe to check out why he was being blackmailed by one Arthur Gwynn Geiger. His two daughters, Vivian and Carmen, are quite a handful but General Sternwood feels in part responsible for his plight. As he tells Marlow, "I need not add that a man who indulges in parenthood for the first time at the age of fifty-four deserves all he gets." He describes his two daughters as being "spoiled, exacting, smart and ruthless with the younger girl as being the type who likes to pull wings off flies".
Chandler's novels do highlight crooks and morally-corrupt characters and derelicts, but they are counter-balanced by Marlowe, Bernie Ohls, and General Sternwood--all of whom possess a strong sense of honor, a consideration of what is proper and are for the most part trying to live a life above board.
There are numerous murders that take place in all three of these detective Marlowe novels and a tight interwoven plot which will keep you on the edge of your seat until you get to the last page.
Just as an interesting sideline, when THE BIG SLEEP (the first of Chandler's novels) was published in 1939 there was only an advance of 5,000 copies by Alfred A. Knopf. However, Knopf knew the power and the contribution that this novel would make. They actually took out an advertisement for this book on the front cover of the Publisher's Weekly which was most unusual for a novelist's first book.
The dust jacket flaps read:
"Not since Dashiell Hammett appeared has there been a murder mystery story with the power, pace, and terrifying atmosphere of this one. And like Hammett's this is more than a "murder mystery": it is a novel of crime and character, written with uncommon skill in a tight, tense style which is irresistible."
And so it was. I would highly recommend reading these crime novels and being introduced to Philip Marlowe. THE BIG SLEEP was made into a movie starring Bogart and Bacall with the screen play being written by William Faulkner no less.
Don't miss these novels. I almost did.
Note: This Everyman's Library is a great buy. It is a hardcover and for $18.15 with some offerings of $14.95, the buyer can get three (3) Chandler novels. The paperback for THE BIG SLEEP alone is $10.36!
The Big Sleep; Farewell, My Lovely; The High Window (Everyman's Library)
Six novels later, I'm still reading Chandler novels, and still finding each and every one different, interesting and intriguing. The main character Marlowe is a wisecracking detective, wary of women - whom he obviously mistrusts - except for the "bad type of women", for whom he does not particularly care. He is also a complex, intelligent man, often an altruist who goes to some extraordinary lengths for his clients, even when he's not paid.
Novels are usually set in 30's/40's Hollywood and Bay City (which is since called something else), and are especially nostalgic, if you've lived in the surrounding areas.
Chandler's writing is funny and unique - the stories - all told in first person, are written so that the reader is both aware of Marlowe's conscious thoughts, and at the same time, when the ending or some pivotal point in the story arrives - is not. This point is not easy to describe, but it works extremely well - the stories are always amusing, captivating, and suspenseful.
I will easily recommend any Chandler novel for anyone interested in mysteries, as well as to those that enjoy unconventional styles of storytelling.
The Everyman editions are everything books should be. They are bound in cloth. They are sewn in signatures. The paper is an acid-free cream-colored paper that is nonreflective and featuring a beautiful font. The volumes are inviting and marvelous to hold. And I love the page size. Each book is approximately the size of a trade paperback. It is as if the publisher sat down to design the perfect book. Whether that was their intent, it was the result.
This volume contains a wonderful introductory essay by Diane Johnson along with the first three novels that Raymond Chandler wrote. Of the great writers, Chandler got possibly the latest start. He was in his mid-forties when he first started writing for publication and fifty when THE BIG SLEEP was released. In one way he did nothing that had not already been done by Dashiell Hammett, but there is no question he put his own indelible stamp on the hardboiled genre. The difference between what Chandler and Hammett were doing and what, say, Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers and other drawing room detective novelists were doing was vast. The whole point of a Christie or Sayers novel was the solving of the mystery. The story was built around a puzzle. For Chandler, on the other hand, the story was almost an afterthought, almost a triviality. He seems to have expended very little thought on his plots. Instead, he focused all of his energies on character, narrative, and dialogue. Has any writer every written so many great metaphors or similes? "He looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food." His books (and stories) contain dozens if not hundreds of similar lines. He is almost unquestionably the most imitated writer in history, as scores of other writers have either emulated or parodied his prose style.
Although he published THE BIG SLEEP at age 50, it bears none of the marks of a neophyte writer. It does have a cynical world weariness that was not at odds with Chandler's own worldview. Philip Marlowe is a knight errant, but a battered one. In one of Chandler's greatest short stories, "Red Wind," Marlowe is hired to find a stolen set of pearl's that a woman was given by her one true love, a man who had died before they could be married. Marlow recovers the pearls, only to realize that they were fake. Knowing that they will be examined closely upon their return and revealed (and their giver along with them) as fakes, he has some poor fakes made instead. He then tells his client that the pearls had already been sold and presents her with the fakes in their stead. He thereby protects the woman's life sustaining delusion that she had once been loved by a truly good man. The story ends with Marlowe sitting on a rock in Malibu tossing the pearls one by one into the Pacific. Marlowe knows have nasty the world can be, but he is determined to protect the few good and comforting things that he can.
This volume collects Chandler's first three novels. The first two are among his greatest. The third, THE HIGH WINDOW, is very readable and fun, but many of the plot devices are atrocious, such as the outrageous conceit that a near unknown would give Marlowe his apartment key so that he could later get into his apartment and discover his dead body. And there is a far-fetched gun switching device that indicates that Chandler simply couldn't be bothered to improve upon. But THE BIG SLEEP and FAREWELL, MY LOVELY are both wonderful novels, full of wonderfully savage prose, demented characters, and descriptions of a Los Angeles that helped give birth and form to countless film noirs.
Thanks to Everyman, it is very simple to collect all the Raymond Chandler you'd ever want to own. There is a second collection of novels, which includes THE LADY IN THE LAKE, THE LITTLE SISTER, THE LONG GOODBYE, and PLAYBACK (the latter the lone truly bad Philip Marlowe novel, written near the end of Chandler's life and following the death of his beloved wife). And THE COLLECTED STORIES brings together the truly remarkable group of tales that Chandler wrote, most before publishing THE BIG SLEEP, many featuring Philip Marlowe. I strongly recommend all of them. Along with Dashiell Hammett (collecting whose major work is a far more complex affair) and Ross MacDonald, this is the very heart of American hardboiled fiction.