24 February 2009

The Big Sleep (Raymond Chandler)

If you've not read any Raymond Chandler then you are yet to meet possibly the coolest character in fiction: Philip Marlowe.


Marlowe is a fast talking, rye drinking detective of the hard-boiled persuasion. And, even cooler, he is played by the gorgeous Humphrey Bogart in the 1946 film version of The Big Sleep. Mmmm...

Can you tell I've a bit of a crush?

The Big Sleep opens with Marlowe 'calling on four million dollars'. General Sternwood needs Marlowe's help in controlling his two daughters, both beautiful and both wild. (Although only the younger, Carmen, pulls the wings off flies.)

Carmen is being blackmailed over a few risque photographs. Marlowe's investigations lead to encounters with various characters of the underworld, such as Geiger, who rents out pornography, and Canino, hired gun of casino owner Eddie Mars. The mystery becomes increasingly convoluted, with many of the characters bumping off many of the other characters.

But the thing is, you don't read Raymond Chandler to be gripped by the plot; constantly on the edge of your seat. You read Chandler because his books are incredibly atmospheric, and really evoke that 1930s/1940s noir period. You read them because characters sell each other out for a nickel. You read Chandler because Marlowe is ridiculously cool.
My favourite line in the book?

'I went out to the kitchenette and drank two cups of black coffee. You can have a hangover from other things than alcohol. I had one from women.'

See what I mean?

(Plus, while you are reading it, you wont be able to stop picturing yourself in a trench coat and fedora. Which, lets be honest, is just about the coolest look ever. You will want to make a permanent move to the 1940s.)

The Big Sleep: 9/10
(Marlowe: 13/10)
Search Engine Submission - AddMe