My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It's difficult not to like Raymond Chandler's work. This is only the second of his novels I have read, but this time, because I doubted Hollywood would replicate the pornography ring in detail, and it was a wet and windy Saturday night, I watched the 1946 film version of The Big Sleep starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. It was sufficiently different to the book not to affect my enjoyment of the story, and, I must say, it was good to watch a crisp black and white movie on my television. I watched it on Youtube, but the rented, rather than the pirated, version of the film. I am now off in search of African Queen and other Bogart classics and will follow these up with the novels, too. But The Big Sleep was an excellent read. I am struck by the complexity of Philip Marlowe's character that eludes the Bogart version. Because there is no real love story, as in the Hollywood version, there is much more to explore, and no need to find excuses for Lauren Bacall to appear so frequently. Marlowe reminds me of the Protestant ethic. It is OK to be a booze-hound and to smoke yourself to death, as long as you don't do reefers and you are admirable in your smuttiness towards the upper classes. Chandler's prose is brilliant, and it would appear, for now at least, that this novel is considered his best because it is his best. Not so many wise-cracks and heavy similes as Farewell, My Lovely, but, all the same, a cracker of a story, a likeable character, and a paddock full of fertilizer for the imagination in a mere 250 pages, and a one-page conclusion that brings multiple stories to a neat and satisfying finish.
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