The Big Sleep is Raymond Chandler’s masterpiece. The best crime novel ever written bar none. Almost single handedly Chandler invented the genre of the hard drinking, hard smoking, hard loving, sharply dressed, first person, private detective, with a wisecrack for every occasion, and a bullet for every bad guy and gal. Over the last seventy years his hero Philip Marlowe has been the template for dozens of crime writers. Just think Ross Macdonald, John D. MacDonald, Robert B. Parker, Derek Marlowe, Alan Sharp, Timothy Harris, Roger L. Simon, Robert Crais, and yours truly, plus loads more. (Not all first person I admit, but well in the Chandler groove, and if you don’t know any of these authors, Google them)
The novel opens with a paragraph that has been quoted time and time again as a classic of the genre. I don’t intend to reprint it here, just read the book if you haven’t already. And if you haven’t shame on you.
Simply, the plot of the novel is that a rich old man with two beautiful daughters who make Paris Hilton look tame, is being blackmailed. Enter Marlowe, who cuts a swathe through the Los Angeles demi monde, and solves the case quick fast.
Great plot, great characters, great atmosphere. Just the greatest.
Rarely out of print, Penguin put out a new paperback edition in 2005.