The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

The Big Sleep cover

The Big Sleep is the first book by Raymond Chandler that I’ve read but I’ll definitely be tracking down his others. This book was first published in 1939 and it’s the first book which features the private investigator Philip Marlowe. I must have seen the 1946 film of the book umpteen times, if I see it’s on TV I’ll always watch it again if possible, I’m a Bogart and Bacall fan.

Marlowe is hired by General Sternwood to track down whoever is blackmailing his daughter Carmen. Sternwood is wheelchair-bound and obviously a very ill man, he has two daughters and they’re both spoiled, the youngest Carmen is really out of control. The eldest daughter Vivian is married, but her husband is missing which is also a worry to Sternwood as he got on well with his son-in-law. Vivian is addicted to gambling, playing roulette.

Marlowe’s investigation uncovers a world of gangsters, gun-runners, pornographers and murderers. The plot is great but the writing is even better – honestly I had no idea that Chandler was such a good writer. I love that he describes everything and everyone, but manages to avoid overdoing it somehow. Writing the screenplay must have been a fairly easy task as Chandler had already written all the action and dressed all the actors. Add to that Marlowe’s dry wit and classiness, this book is a very entertaining read.

I was really surprised to read that Chandler went to school in England and even joined the British civil service. In 1917 he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force and fought in France with the Gordon Highlanders.


4 thoughts on “The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

  1. Just in the past week I heard or read an interview that discussed the greatness of Chandler’s writing. I have never read him, nor has Ken, so thank you, we will do so promptly.

  2. I missed this when you first posted. I am going to have to check the others on your Reading in Peril list to see which ones I missed. The Big Sleep is one of my favorite mysteries ever. I have read the 2nd and 3rd books in the series and there are only four after that. I thought the 2nd book was nearly as good as The Big Sleep, but the third one not so much. But like you say, his writing is so good I did not care.

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