Friday, January 28, 2011

THE BIG SLEEP by Raymond Chandler

I'd forgotten what a good book Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep is.

The description is masterful.  In an age without television, Chandler describes people and scenes in such a way that even a dolt like me with no eye for what's around him can see the setting and the people.

I hardly need to tell the story.  A dying old millionaire, General Sherwood, hires Philip Marlowe to trace the source of a blackmail threat. 

Marlowe's very presence sets off several murders, and the whole thing leads back, both to the mob and to the death of Rusty Regan, the husband of one of Sherwood's daughters.

The plot itself is delightfully complex, seemingly almost completed about half way through the book, but there is more to go.  And of course, it all leads to the closing philosophical discussion of "The Big Sleep."

One of the things that always interests me about detective novels is how the author sees what a detective does.  At one point Marlowe says, "I'm not Sherlock Holmes or Philo Vance. I don't expect to go over ground the police have covered and pick up a broken pin point and build a case from it. If you think there's anybody in the detective business making a living doing that sort of thing, you don't know much about cops."

And that's at the heart of it, isn't it?  Philip Marlowe was no Sherlock Holmes.  Marlowe was more real than that.

That's why we still read Raymond Chandler, and that's why I listened to it again, this time on an audio book checked out and downloaded to my iPad from the local library. 

How many times has it been now that I've read this book?  I don't know.  At least three or four I'd guess.  I've enjoyed them all. 

PS This is the second time I've read this book since I started writing this blog.  To read the other comments I made, just look for the book's title in the search box.


Kerrie said...

Hello Joe. This week's Friday's Forgotten Books is now up on MYSTERIES in PARADISE. Thanks for participating.

Evan Lewis said...

A classic. Sounds great as a talking book, too.

Joe Barone said...

The talking book made me much more aware of Chandler's mastery of setting and description.