“I was neat, clean, shaved and sober and I didn’t care who knew it.”
Raymond Chandler could make his words stalk off the page and into your life like a gimlet-eyed dame with a .45 in her purse and too many white nights in her past.
Anyway, before I start to sound like Robert Parker writing a pastiche with a WAY too short deadline, let me just say that The Big Sleep is deservedly one of Chandler’s best known works. He paints LA red with a lurid tale of high society, low company, depraved kicks, and noble intentions gone wrong.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story, it is narrated by Philip Marlowe, Chandler’s fictional PI. Marlowe’s job, taken as much for a loopy sense of honor as for green semolians, is to look into the disappearance of Rusty Regan, General Sternwood’s son-in-law. Chaos abounds as the General’s daughters, Vivian and Carmen, do their best to muddy the waters.
The plot is a complex one, pulled together from short stories Chandler had sold to Black Mask. Honestly, sometimes the stitching shows. But the characters just pull you into their loony world and hold on until the tale is done. Along the way you find gems like “Dead men are heavier than broken hearts,” and, “using his strength like an out-of-work show-girl uses her last good pair of stockings.” Above all it’s Marlowe, the dogged PI, going back again to uncover, or bury, the truth as he must in the service of his odd sense of duty.