Monday, April 22, 2013

#64 - "The Big Sleep" by Raymond Chandler

I finished this book, my 64th from the Time list, a little over two weeks ago, but for various reasons, mostly that I have been out of town, I have not had a chance to post my review. Or anything else for that matter. Nor have I had much time to read.

Usually when I'm away, I get a lot of reading done, it's one of my favorite parts of travelling. But on my most recent trip, I don't think I read more than ten pages in six days. The good news is I'm about $30 richer from playing Gin. So I have that going for me.

The Big Sleep is the second "detective" novel from the list, along with Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett. I'm happy to report this one was a much more enjoyable read.

Following hard-nosed detective, Philip Marlowe, The Big Sleep is the story of a detective, a near-death millionaire, his two wild daughters, and a sorted cast of characters from the Los Angeles underworlds of gambling and pornography.

Marlowe is hired by the aging millionaire to find out who is blackmailing his youngest daughter. Or has he been hired to find the eldest daughter's missing husband? Are the two cases related? As Marlowe gets deeper into the case, or the two cases, he is confronted by treachery, deceit, violence, and double-crossing n'er-do-wells. Such is the adventure we are taken on when reading Chandler's masterpiece.

All in all this was a good read. The story is interesting, or better yet, intriguing, and had a little bit of fun thrown into the mix as well. It also featured a slew of memorable characters, most notably Philip Marlowe. Sure, he's the hard-boiled detective we've seen in so many 'film noir" movies from the 40's and 50's (in fact he was one, having been portrayed by Bogart among others), but his depth seems to go beyond those cliches.

I think Marlowe was the reason I enjoyed this book so much more than Red Harvest. I liked Philip Marlowe, and was for lack of a better word, sympathetic to his plight. Compare this to Red Harvest, where I didn't feel any connection to the main character, and was quite frankly, uninterested in whether he succeeded in his case or not. Or even if he was killed or not. I also found Marlowe to be more realistic as well, opposed to the star of Red Harvest who just seemed a little ridiculous at times, almost cartoonish.

Without a good, developed character, I think I might have had similar feeling toward The Big Sleep, because at the end of the day, the story isn't that complex, despite its twists and turns, and the writing isn't "top-notch." But it is a classic in its genre, an entertaining read, and one that I enjoyed. It also makes me think that perhaps I should revisit Dashiell Hammett later on, perhaps The Maltese Falcon, and see if a notable character (Sam Spade), make his books any more interesting.

For number 65, I have selected the potentially daunting, The Man Who Loved Children. I've been told by Lev Grossman that I could have a free pass on this one and not read it. But that wouldn't be in the spirit of things, would it? I've tried to put his words out of my mind, so as not to prejudice me while reading this one.

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