Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

First of all, I will admit I am not, nor have I ever been, a fan of detective or “who-dun-it” genre fiction. If I thought really, really hard, I might come up with five or seven – absolute tops – titles I have read. This was a selection of a member of my book club, and I am glad it only took me a day to read it. I was antsy at the interruption in reading for my next review.

This novel is the “Adam and Eve” of every cliché in every detective novel or film noir of the 30s and 40s I have ever heard, read, or seen. I do like those old Marlowe movies with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. My wife and I are going to watch the film version of this novel tomorrow night.

I also have to admit the story had some level of interest, but it was cheesy. Do detectives and police officers and crooks really talk like that? “Her smile was as wide as Wilshire Boulevard” (10) and “The calves were beautiful, the ankles long and slim and with enough melodic line for a tone poem” (17) and “Hold me close you beast” (150). And what’s with the “okey”? Chandler also seems to have a thread of homophobia in the novel. He did attend British schools from the age of 12.

The one thing that never left my mind while reading Chandler was the film, “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid,” a paean to film noir that recaptures every cliché in scenes strung together from a dozen film noir classics and all hung on a story starring Steve Martin. I love that film!

Okay, alright, I liked it. But to paraphrase Miles (Paul Giamatti in “Sideways”), “I will not read any more detective who-dun-its!” Four stars

--Chiron, 6/29/10

1 comment:

MargaretBeth said...

Raymond Chandler is wonderful. I have read and loved every one of his hard-boiled detective novels. They are full of cool detectives, knowing dames, cigarette smoke and booze. Oh! And elegant prose.