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-=[ The Big Sleep ]=-
“She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.”
-- Raymond Chandler
Those who know me know how much I love to read. I am a voracious reader -- I will read almost anything. Once, while in solitary confinement, I convinced my jailer to smuggle me a book (Dickens’ Bleak House! LOL!) in exchange for a story I told him. I think he gave me the book because he found it so strange I would want a book under those grim circumstances.
What many people don’t know is that I absolutely love mystery/ suspense novels! I mean, I read a lot of highbrow shite, academic journals, The Classics, esoteric research papers, blah, blah, blah, but I really love a good detective novel. Some of my fave authors are (in no particular order) Walter Mosley (his Easy Rawlins series), Dennis Lehane (Gone Baby Gone is fantastic), Richard Stark (talk about hard-boiled!), Jason Starr (hilarious postmodern tales), and many others. I love noir art, because it deals in the complexities of the various grays of a world most people insist in seeing in black and white.
I think part of the attraction of the modern detective/ mystery/ suspense novel is that their protagonists are fallible human beings. For the most part, these are people who don’t have all the answers or maybe even next months rent. They’re not the greatest human beings, but often, when faced with a moral dilemma, they try to do the best they can with what they have.
And sometimes, as in life, it’s not enough...
The fallible detective is in stark contrast to the earlier detectives, like Sherlock Holmes, who were intellectual giants and solved a mystery through the sheer force of logical reasoning.
Raymond Chandler could be called the father of the modern detective and his The Big Sleep is important in that it represents a departure from the traditional detective genre. The novel reflects changes that reflect the world in which it was written.
This a claustrophobic urban space that, while set in
There is no introduction to Phillip Marlowe, the main character; we are thrust straight into the investigation as it gets underway. This is endemic of the nature of the world and the character, a new kind of hero who seems only to come alive when there is a crime to solve. We know nothing of his background and we only see him return to his office, and only then, when a trail has been exhausted. Marlowe combines a tattered infallibility -- a hard drinker who seems to be beaten by men and women alike. Yet, he has an almost uncanny sense of authority, which allows him to float over the twists, and turns of the case -- a participant observer randomly following leads until a solution is finally reached.
That this is so far removed from the
The Big Sleep was adapted to film by none other than William Faulkner starring the great Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart.