The Big Sleep proves Chandler’s true worth with his effortless crafting of what is a perfectly indulgent feast for any crime buff looking for action. ‘I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it’. PI Philip Marlowe is the ideal crime thriller protagonist, epitomising your typical ‘tough-guy’ type to a tee. General Sternwood, aged, lonely and wheelchair-bound is blackmailed and hires Marlowe for the job. But with Sternwood comes his two interfering, devilish daughters, Carmen and Vivian, giving Marlowe more than he bargained for.
Written in the late 1930’s the novel is somewhat dated; in a modern interpretation of a crime thriller it is much assumed that raw and extreme violence will arise, and hence for a contemporary reader it has to be said that the book does fail to shock. Some may assume this to mean a lacklustre and uninspiring read; as an audience immune to bloodshed and brutality at the hands of modern heroes of felony such as James Bond, we are hard to baffle.
Chandler himself, having written a subsequent series of Philip Marlowe mysteries was clearly a fanatic of this genre and wonderfully conveys this passion in his writing. It is probable that at the time of writing Chandler aimed to captivate and excite and for a specific audience this is very much the case. Although perhaps a little passé, his style of writing cannot be faulted.
This serves a treat for a fan of crime fiction but proves deficient in offering a divergent sub-plot for the crime fiction virgin. If you are the latter; steer clear, but for lovers of geniuses such as Conan Doyle and Walter Mosely, Chandler will be just your thing.