By Raymond Chandler
This is the first of the Philip Marlowe novels, Chandlers first novel in fact, and my first contact with who is probably the most iconic author of classic crime fiction. 230 odd pages long, this not a difficult book to read, its concentrated, complex and I've no idea why I've never read Chandler or any classic noir fiction before. I loved it and I'm guessing my life long obsession with science fiction kept me oblivious. I've come to the conclusion that most modern authors sell product, where as older authors tell stories. Obviously these can be one and the same thing, but I believe there is a dividing line if you care to look for it. Consequently I've been less inclined to read sci fi in recent years, leaning more towards classical literature and crime novels.
The problem with crime novels is, there is a lot of dross and I'm less interested in contemporary crime literature, especially the mass produced detective-this-that-or-the-other of modern British crime fiction (we already get enough of those on television). I prefer to go back to the noir period, to the 1930's or 1950's and this book, first published in 1939 has both the ambience of the period and the freshness of originality. It doesn't matter to me that a million others have tried to emulate Chandler (or Hammet), this is the real thing.
In some ways 'The big sleep' is reminiscent of 'This man is dangerous' by Peter Cheyney (1936). Both feature a tough talking character relating his contact with a shady underworld, using the 'gangster jargon' one hears in so many movies set in the 1930's and 40's. The difference is, 'The big sleep' has an air of cultural authenticity about it, where as Cheyney's novel feels contrived.