The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

When reading noir/hard-boiled books, the reader must remove oneself from our politically-correct world and embrace the world you have chosen to read. Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep is the first of his Philip Marlowe private eye series. One bit of difficulty when reading Chandler’s book is that Marlowe is the narrator so I only heard Humphrey Bogart’s voice in their head. I guess it is better than hearing Peter Lorre’s voice narrating.

Marlowe gets a call to visit General Sternwood at his large estate in Los Angeles where there are remnants of Sterwood’s oil wealth still visible. Before he meets the General in his orchid garden, Marlowe runs into the youngest of Sternwoods daughters, Carmen.

She bit her lip and turned her head a little and looked at me along her eyes. Then she lowered her lashes until they almost cuddled her cheeks and slowly raised them again, like a theater curtain. I was to get to know that trick. That was supposed to make me roll over on my back with all four paws in the air.

After Marlowe gets his assignment from Sternwood, he meets the other daughter, Vivian Regan née Sterwood.

I sat down on the edge of a deep soft chair and looked at Mrs. Regan. She was worth a stare. She was trouble. She was stretched out on a modernistic chaise-longue with her slippers off, so I stared at her legs in the sheerest silk stockings. They seemed to be arranged to stare at.

Two femme fatales and one simple blackmailer to track down and payoff. Set in the late 1930s, Marlowe takes us on his journey through the darkside of Los Angeles filled with lies, gambling and murder. After finishing The Big Sleep, I believe I understand its importance for the hard-boiled detective genre, though much of the book and Chandler’s popularity are due to the film that came out a few years later.

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