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The Big Sleep (Vintage Crime) [Paperback]

Raymond Chandler
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug 1992 Vintage Crime
When a dying millionaire hires Philip Marlowe to handle the blackmailer of one of his two troublesome daughters, Marlowe finds himself involved with more than extortion. Kidnapping, pornography, seduction, and murder are just a few of the complications he gets caught up in.

"Chandler [writes] like a slumming angel and invest[s] the sun-blinded streets of Los Angelos with a romantic presence."
--Ross Macdonald

Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books USA; Reprint edition (Aug 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394758285
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394758282
  • Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 13.2 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,364,608 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Anything Chandler writes about grips the mind from the first sentence' Daily Telegraph 'One of the greatest crime writers, who set the standards others still try to attain' Sunday Times 'Chandler wrote like a slumming angel and invested the sun-blinded streets of Los Angeles with a romantic presence' - Ross MacDonald --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Best-known as the creator of the original private eye, Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler was born in Chicago in 1888 and died in 1959. Many of his books have been adapted for the screen, and he is widely regarded as one of the very greatest writers of detective fiction. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
It was about eleven o'clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
First of all, I should say that I can't believe no one else has written a review of this wonderful crime novel. I'm happy to rectify this oversight now.
For me, Raymond Chandler's first novel, published in 1939, stands as not only one of the great crime novels of the 20th century, but one of the best genuinely American prose works in all of literature. Only an ignorant snob could argue that this isn't a piece of literature and a work of art as well as a highly entertaining story of detection. Philip Marlowe is Chandler's laconic private eye hero, an urban knight and man of honour operating in a grim world, a tough guy with a hard shell covering a man of culture and learning. Chandler writes both lines of dialogue and first person narrative to die for, combining a poet's use of metaphor with the hard-edged wit of the mean streets of Los Angeles, whose dark underbelly Chandler explores in his novels.
The plot of this mystery is legendary for its labyrinthine structure as Marlowe takes on a case for the wealthy General Sternwood, getting mixed up in murder, sex and a pornography racket.
I couldn't praise this masterpiece enough. Suffice to say that I consider it to be flawless.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do yourself a favour! 7 Nov 2011
By Westham
Not sure whether a Chandler fanatic should attempt a fair review of a Chandler classic, so let's at least try to be fair. What COULDN'T he do? Well, he couldn't write a plot for a start. The Big Sleep (and other RC novels) is based on two of his earlier short(ish) stories welded together - not exactly seamlessly. For example, who killed the Chauffeur and why? That problem baffled the screen-writer (Forester) and director (Howard Hawkes) of the first Big Sleep movie - they rang Ray to find out - he told them he couldn't remember! Nobody else knows either. I mention it, not to spoil anything, but in the hope that trying to work it out will not drive you nuts (as it did me).
On the other hand he could write like an angel:"The General spoke again, slowly, using his strength as carefully as an out-of-work show-girl uses her last good pair of stockings." I'm currently fighting myself not to quote from the great last paragraph - even though I'm convinced it couldn't spoil anything. Instead I'll just give another example of the man's wit (although I think it may be from "Trouble is my business"): "I called him from a phone booth. The voice that answered was fat. It wheezed softly, like the voice of a man who had just won a pie-eating contest."

The Big Sleep's not just a great read; it's a great re-read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect pace and crackling dialogue 31 Dec 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
Had to read this for Book Club and loved it in spite of the unselfconscious sexism and homophobia that marks it out as a novel from a different era. Perfect pace and crackling dialogue gave me several laugh out loud moments along with delight at the wit and sharp observation.

The Big Sleep is Raymond Chandler's first case for Los Angeles Private Investigator Philip Marlowe. For me, Marlowe develops in subtlety through the subsequent books, and becomes all the more interesting a character as a result, but in this his first outing, he still charms as a charismatic outsider whose idea of hell would be domestic bliss, and who loves nothing better than a drink, a smoke, an illicit clinch and a dose of hard boiled action to get the blood racing.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard boiled, sentimental and sublime 8 April 2012
My favourite of all of the Philip Marlowe books by Raymond Chandler - I once watched a documentary on fictitious American private eyes and the critical testimony, brutally harsh and accurate, of two Dashiell Hamnet adherents regarding Marlowe's rather easygoing approach to being adequately paid for his sleuthing, still couldn't put me off holding this shop soiled knight in tarnished armour's adventures in such high regard.

Early memories of seeing the first Robert Mitchum starring version of The Big Sleep as a child in the 1970s (Candy Southern hopped up and naked in a big wickerwork chair, Joan Collins as an upper crust grifter, etc) all collided when I finally read this book in the late 1980s, after reading references to the influences of Chandler and Hammet's Frank (Batman: Year One/The Dark Knight Returns) Miller work on Marvel Comics Daredevil title*.

While I can appreciate Chandler's way with descriptions, prose style and setting a scene, it's the emotional content of his books that endear me the most to him in crime fiction; I like Marlowe's tough guy character, I like his cheek and most of all, I love Chandler's perpetual habit of never letting Marlowe get the girl.

More than anything, it's the sentimental and bittersweet fleeting assignations and Marlowe's hardboiled observations thereof that move me more than anything else in Chandler's stylistic armoury: the sheer unrequited romanticism in his writing.

I know this isn't the most intellectual review of Chandler's The Big Sleep but I don't watch, read or listen to things from a technical POV - I just want to be entertained and have my emotions stirred up and the emotional frequency that Chandler wrote on presses all the right sentimental buttons in me.

So, poor old Marlowe...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Big Sleep 7 Oct 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
Written in 1939, this is the first of the Philip Marlowe PI, cynical tough guy, novels. This is noir, beautifully written and realised, with everything you could possibly expect from this classic book. When we meet Marlowe he is on his way to the 'Sternwood Place' to meet four million dollars - neat, clean, shaved and sober, as befits visiting a millionaire. Gerneral Sternwood is paralysed in both his legs, a widower with two wayward daughters and a missing son in law. He is being blackmailed and wants Marlowe to help.

As far the plot goes, it is confusing and involved. There are guns, gangsters and girls, including Sternwood's two daughters, the spoiled and ruthless Vivian and the childish Carmen. Vivian has a string of broken marriages, her last to Rusty Regan rumoured to have ended with her husband skipping with Eddie Mars, a local hard man, wife. Both Carmen and Vivian seem to mix with the wrong people, but are they simply wild or dangerous? Along the way there is lots of action and wise cracks, as Marlowe battles his way to the truth. As so many characters have been based on Philip Marlowe, it is interesting to read the original and judge for yourself. This is the basis for a whole genre of writing and fascinating to read, as well as being an enjoyable story.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars i would rather be asleep than read this
the crime noir genre has always been, in my opinion, a genre for men & the americans who wrote it. (no surprise, i suppose, since i'm only reading this novel because it's a... Read more
Published 13 days ago by Val Kyrie
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Very good but can but can be confusing at times. I have the movie which many say is equally confusing but still great. No-one knows who killed Owen Taylor, the family chauffeur. Read more
Published 19 days ago by Michael Leigh
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic
Classic detective novel, with Chandler's private eye Philip Marlowe embroiled with a wealthy family and their bizarre behaviour, mobsters, schemers, and those that get in the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by freedomrulesok
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-plotted Suspense
A little slow for me at times, and not real heavy on the investigation, but the dialog is sharp and some clever writing.
Published 1 month ago by Frank
1.0 out of 5 stars Chandler dissapointing
Very dated, almost no characterisation. And sexist, homofobic, and boring! I may try another, of his, but I'm not keen.
Published 1 month ago by ex libris
4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual and of its time
Never having read Raymond chandler before, this novel was a great read. Humorous, well drawn characters and (at times) a convoluted plot made it a great read. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mrs. Jc Rosser
5.0 out of 5 stars THE NOIR NOVEL
This sets the standard for noir/pulp fiction writing by the master author of the genre. All the twist and turns of the plot, the one liners and the characterisation makes it the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Edward Clark
5.0 out of 5 stars Un PC Big Sleep
What more can be said about Chandler? The gritty force of nature that is Philip Marlowe's first outing still stands up as a work of fiction after decades. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Duncan C.
4.0 out of 5 stars Big Sleep
Although I don't really like this genre I had to buy it for the book club. It arrived promptly and in good order.
Published 8 months ago by janet jefferies
5.0 out of 5 stars Bestens!
Since I got that marvellous book - The Big Sleep -
(by Raymond Chandler )
I am so happy. I can`t sleep any more!
Just look and wonder!
Published 8 months ago by GŁnter Werner
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