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The Big Sleep Review

While living in England during his early years, Raymond Chandler tried his hand as a freelance journalist, but was disappointed when he failed. He returned to the United States, where he was born, and worked at odd jobs until serving in WWI. After the war, he became a successful businessman. In 1933, he decided to try his hand at writing after losing his lucrative job because of the depression. He was forty-five at the time.

He began writing for the popular pulp fiction magazines, and between 1933 and 1941, he published twenty-one stories. In 1939, Chandler wrote his first novel, The Big Sleep, in just three months. He continued to write short stories, screenplays and six more Philip Marlowe books over the years. After a successful second career as a hard-boiled crime writer, Raymond Chandler died in 1959 at the age of seventy-one.

The Big Sleep was an instant success. Marlowe was a tough but sentimental private eye, who faced danger on a regular basis. The ladies either loved him or hated him, but they were continually drawn to his tall, dark looks and cool, cocky attitude. The psychopathic Sternwood sisters were no different.

Their father, General Guy Sternwood, was a paralyzed California millionaire who asked Marlowe to look into a case of blackmail. Someone sent General Sternwood several of his daughter Carmenís gambling markers with a request that he pay him or her to keep Carmenís name clean. Marlowe took the case and began following the clues, but soon found himself in a deeper web of deception. Thrown into the mix was the disappearance of Vivian Sternwoods husband a month before. Unexpectedly, everywhere he went, he found one or the other daughter somehow involved in the situation.

As the body count began to rise, Marlowe found himself butting heads with the law and on the wrong side of the local gambling boss. The closer he got to the truth, the more his own life was on the line until he was placed in a seemingly impossible situation.

The novel is written in the sparse, concise style of the times. Chandler writes each scene with vivid detail and often inserts humor in unexpected places. The Big Sleep reads as if written by a writer who had long honed his craft, and is best known for introducing one of the most famous of the hard-boiled crime detectives. This book is highly recommended to anyone who wants to explore the genre.


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