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The Big Sleep and Other Novels (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 3 Feb 2000
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Raymond Chandler created the fast talking, trouble seeking Californian private eye Philip Marlowe for his first great novel "The Big Sleep" in 1939. Marlowe's entanglement with the Sternwood family - and an attendant cast of colorful underworld figures - is the background to a story reflecting all the tarnished glitter of the great American Dream. The detective's iconic image burns just as brightly in "Farewell My Lovely", on the trail of a missing nightclub crooner. And the inimitable Marlowe is able to prove that trouble really is his business in Raymond Chandler's brilliant epitaph, "The Long Goodbye".
About the Author
Raymond Thornton Chandler was born in Chicago in 1888, but moved to England with his family when he was twelve, where he attended Dulwich College, alma mater to some of the twentieth century's most renowned writers. Returning to America in 1912, he settled in California, worked in a number of jobs, and later married. It was during the Depression era that he seriously turned his hand to writing, and his first published story appeared in the pulp magazine Black Mask in 1933, followed six years later, when he was fifty, by his first novel, The Big Sleep. Chandler died in 1959, having established himself as the finest crime writer in America.
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Chandler has a great prose style, self-consciously lush, with action driven on by Philip Marlowe's wry narration and sharp, witty dialogue. Each novel revolves around elements of murder-mystery, but they are also about love, addiction, the American Dream, corruption, and changing American Society. The Long Goodbye, published in 1953, is the broadest in its gaze, with a story revolving around the painful legacy of the Second World War, alcoholism, and the far-reaching corruption of money. Marlowe is smart, tough, often inscrutable, but he's no invulnerable Superman, and it is his lingering sense of humanity, forever getting the better of his cynicism, which ultimately endears the character to the reader.
Read these novels: they're great for any fans of noire and of old-fashioned detective stories, but Chandler also deserves to be recognised as a great novelist, not just a hack like so many of his contemporaries (and some of his characters).
The first early story, The Big Sleep, may be slightly marred by old fashioned slang, albeit apt for the time and setting, but he soon gets into a more timeless style with the other two to deliver peerless examples of the crime genre. The Long Goodbye is one of the best crime stories ever written.
If you like crime stories, or just looking for great writing, and would like to read some masterpieces by the most original and arguably the best crime writer ever then this is undoubtedly for you.