Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Big Sleep

by Raymond Chandler

From the very first page of The Big Sleep I felt as if I were reading an episode of Dragnet (the tv show). The detective, Philip Marlowe, is the stereotypical tough guy private eye, morally upright yet willing to use force or deceit for justice's sake. The characters in the story were also as expected in this type of crime fiction: gangster type bad guys and sexy dumb women, who Marlowe teases and uses as needed but quickly casts them aside as unnecessary nuisances in crime solving. While I say this story was really stereotypical, I must acknowledge that when it was written (1939), this was a ground-breaker for the modern detective novel.

The book was a quick read, but despite the innovative credit due I felt the story was rather disjointed with a confusing mission that never seemed to become clear. Another issue I had was that the detective never made a misstep and knew how to respond to threats almost before they were made. Some of the situations were unbelievable, like when Marlowe was handcuffed (behind the back), yet not only was he able to start a car, he removed a gun hidden in a door panel and used it perfectly to kill an assailant coming straight at him!

On the plus side, the depiction of LA in the 40's was great. The dialogue was full of that generational slang and the writing made it easy to recreate the characters and mood of that era.

I picked this book to specifically meet the final requirement for my What's In A Name challenge; so I have finally completed that task. I really had a hard time finding a book with a size in the title that I hadn't already read.

My rating may not be fair justice to the pioneer of the American hard-boiled detective novel and maybe would have improved had I read a later work. Originally, I wanted to read The Long Goodbye, also by Chandler, but so many reviewers insisted on reading The Big Sleep first that I followed the advice. So for this work alone, from a modern perspective it was okay.

No comments:

Post a Comment