The Reading List: The Big Sleep
The Reading List is a segment of the blog where I let you know the thing I just read and some thoughts about it along with the next book in my list. Should you want to read along with me, let me know in the comments!
The big yellow button on the Amazon web page was enticing. It pulled me in like a moth to a flame. The name of the book: The Big Sleep. A hard-boiled detective novel by Raymond Chandler. I’d never read his work. It didn’t matter. The premise hooked me. I sat in the dark with my Kindle. The faint glow of the backlight illuminating a world I never got to see. A world of conspiracy, greed, murder, and indoor smoking. I devoured the pages like a lion devours a gazelle. They say words are food for the brain, and I was hungry.
I really hope you read that in a 1930’s mid-atlantic radio voice because that’s how I wrote it. The Big Sleep is considered by many to be the best encapsulation of hard-boiled detective fiction ever written. Raymon Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe is not just a private detective, he’s THE detective. He’s arrogant, smart, confident, and blunt. When you think of a private detective from the 40’s, you’re probably thinking of Phillip Marlowe. He’s the template for every detective novel that comes after.
I’m admittedly terrible at following mysteries. They require a certain amount of thought and investment in “whodunit” and I read like I watch a movie. I read to be entertained and enjoy, and I don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure anything out. I just want to be on the ride. Picking a book like this was unusual for me, but I also love the style of Raymond Chandler’s writing. The way he builds the atmosphere is incredible. He makes sure you have all the details you need to paint the picture he wants you to see, but not so much that you get bored.
One thing that also stood out to me is that he has a limited set of characters that he wants you to know about. There are about ten or fewer characters that have any dialogue in the story, and it really lends to the vibe he’s trying to create. Marlowe only cares about the people that he’s investigating, he’s being paid by, or can help him. There are only so many people that he wants to talk to, so you only have so many people to care about. He rarely describes people on the streets unless they somehow stand in the way of a goal or are critical to the investigation or his observations.
If you’re into detective stories and really want that black & white style, 1940’s vibe, then this is a book for you. I will say that the content of this thing is incredibly dated. The way the women are written is two-dimensional, the language used is offensive at times, and it can be a wild ride into the past. I’ll tell you we’ve made a lot of social progress since 1939. A lot of people want to look back on life back then with rose-colored glasses, but we definitely are better off today than we were then in terms of people and their acceptance of others.
Check it out!
Next up: Console Wars - Blake J. Harris