The Big Sleep Paperback – Jul 12 1988
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"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."
From Library Journal
Chandler is not only the best writer of hardboiled PI stories, he's one of the 20th century's top scribes, period. His full canon of novels and short stories is reprinted in trade paper featuring uniform covers in Black Lizard's signature style. A handsome set for a reasonable price.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
In a labyrinthine plot featuring corrupt, orchid-growing millionaires, beautiful blondes, gray men with guns and the cynical, deeply romantic narrator-protagonsit Marlowe, we see Los Angeles of the 1940s as Marlowe looks for the truth about murder, pornography and, ultimately, loss.
The sheer genius of Chandler's writing-- aside from the accompished plot twists-- is his deceptively simple language, which sparkles, and his narrator's deadpan wit. From the descriptions of women ("Inside was a blonde. A blonde! A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.") to the caustic remarks in the face of death ("She would either shoot me, or she wouldn't.") to his existential comments ("I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun"), Marlowe is as entertainign to lsiten to as he is to watch.
Chandler's achievement here goes beyond the action sequences, or the wit of his narrator, or the complexity of his plots. His narrator, the tough-as-nails Marlowe, appeals because he is profoundly romantic at heart, but doomed, like Hamlet, to be disappointed. Like Hamlet-- who writes a play to discover the origins of his misery-- Marlowe too is a storyteller, whose stories lead to one kind of understanding, where actions and sequences finally cohere. But Marlowe's dilemmas are Hamlet's, in that although he can tell the story, his sense of what it all means at the end is far from complete.
Chandler's stories are really about people who are lost. Marlowe's quest to find the body and re-tell the story-- although always successful-- is always undermined by his elliptical and understated awareness that, for all our ingenuity and striving, it all ultimately comes down, as it does for Hamlet and for all of us, to the big sleep.
The Big Sleep contains subject matter considered racy by 1939 standards. Specifically, pornography and homosexuality both play key roles in advancing the story. Chandler's writing is no less than masterful. The dialogue snaps, the descriptive passages are vivid and the complex plot comes together at the end.
There are really two main characters, Marlowe himself and the city of Los Angeles. Marlowe is a loner and if he is not an alcoholic, he could easily be mistaken for one. Always ready with withering put downs, he is a world class cynic who paradoxically adheres to a high minded code of honor. Los Angeles is portrayed as a dreary place, often rain soaked and in the throes of serious growing pains. The claustraphobic, shattered lives of many of its inhabitants made all the more grotesque by the coexisting wealth and glamor.
The Big Sleep has earned its reputation as an American classic and definitely qualifies as a must read.
Written in 1939, 'The Big Sleep' is his first novel featuring Marlowe. And it was so successful that became a franchise, but what's more important, it influenced almost every single writer who tackled detective fiction. The plot is not the most important thing in this novel. It is complicated and confusing, so leaving it aside, one can enjoy all the undertones that are part of Chandler's work.
More than a single genre, Noir is a way of life --for a writer, at least. Everything matters in the book, that's why the narrative is so full of a vivid description of places and women mostly. It is hard to follow who is blackmailing who and why. But it is a joy to read the description of a cigarette being lit by a woman, or the way the smoke dissolves. These descriptions are what make the prose so full of texture and brilliant. Not to mention the Californian glamour that surrounds every single page of the book. Those rich people know how to live end have pleasure.
Marlowe is one of the best --if not THE best-- detective created in the literature. Before him, they used to be a little boring and too nice. Marlowe is violent, visceral and he is not worried of being nice and gentle. In his trip into the darker side of the underworld he comes across every kind of criminal --which, by the way, are so alive that one starts wondering how Chandler knew so much.
All in all, Chandler is one of the most important writers of detective thrillers ever, and influenced hundreds of other authors --in positive and negative ways --, but in case of doubt stick to the original.
Most recent customer reviews
While I normally enjoy classics and appreciate the prototypes that "started it all", I found this book to be simply dated and boring.Published 6 months ago by "Bomber"
After reading Micheal Connely, Raymond Chandler was a bit disappointing ...
A bit too far fetched for my taste. Different era...
An interesting read from a historical perspective for those who want to explore the origins of the detective 'film noire' genre, but a little dated for today's readers and lacking... Read morePublished on Jan. 2 2014 by Chris
I bought this after watching the movie repeatedly. If you like the movie this book won't let you down. Read morePublished on Aug. 29 2013 by Ryan
Très bonne histoire policière! Je le recommande à tout ceux qui aime de genre de livre de le lire, et pour ceux qui ne sont pas capable de lire anglais, je... Read morePublished on April 6 2013 by Anne-Marie
This novel could certainly never be considered high art, but the writing is certainly stylish, and the characters have a real life mixture of strength and frailty that make them... Read morePublished on June 6 2008 by Craig Jenkins
The first book of Chandler's Philip Marlowe series is an especially interesting read for those who've seen the classic film with Bogey and Bacall. Read morePublished on May 27 2004
HEAVY SPOILERS INCLUDED
In his debut novel to introduce private eye Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler seems to have combined two different short story materials into one plot. Read more