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The Big Sleep (Philip Marlowe #1)

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  57,903 ratings  ·  2,426 reviews
When a dying millionaire hires Philip Marlowe to handle the blackmailer of one of his two troublesome daughters, Marlowe finds himself involved with more than extortion. Kidnapping, pornography, seduction, and murder are just a few of the complications he gets caught up in.
Paperback, 231 pages
Published July 12th 1988 by Vintage Crime (first published 1939)
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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg LarssonAnd Then There Were None by Agatha ChristieAngels & Demons by Dan BrownRebecca by Daphne du MaurierIn Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Best Crime & Mystery Books
15th out of 4,437 books — 10,143 voters
The Big Sleep by Raymond ChandlerThe Maltese Falcon by Dashiell HammettThe Long Goodbye by Raymond ChandlerFarewell, My Lovely by Raymond ChandlerThe Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
Best Noir
1st out of 463 books — 509 voters

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Community Reviews

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She was the first thing I saw when I walked into the bookstore. Such a looker I damn near tripped over a stack of calf-high hardbacks set next to a stand of morning papers.
"I'm sorry," she said. "We're not quite open yet."
"That's okay," I told her. "Neither are my eyes."
I could tell right away I wasn't going to win any hosannas by being a smart-aleck.
"I need a book," I continued by way of apology. "Something fun but dark. I'm looking at five hundred miles today, but I'm not in the mood for...more
Dan Schwent
The 2011-2012 re-read...
A paralyzed millionaire, General Sternwood, hires Los Angeles private eye Philip Marlowe to have a talk with a blackmailer with his hooks in his daughter. But what does his daughter's missing husband, Rusty Regan, have to do with it? Marlowe's case will get him entangled in a web of pornography and gambling from which he may never escape...

For the last few years, me and noir detective fiction have gone together as well as strippers and c-section scars. When the Pulp Ficti...more

4.0 stars. This was the first noir crime fiction book that I ever read and I don't think I could have found a much better place to start. I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy the genre, but decided to test the waters with this classic that introduced the world to the iconic private detective Philip Marlowe. I am very glad I did.

This is a fun, fast read and I was immediately sucked in by the superb dialogue, which was both politically incorrect and just slid off the page and into your head.

There’s a story regarding the movie version of The Big Sleep that I love, and if it isn’t true, it should be. Supposedly, while working on adapting the book the screenwriters (William Faulkner & Leigh Brackett) couldn’t figure out who killed one of the characters. So they called Raymond Chandler, and after thinking about it for a while, Chandler admitted that he’d completely forgotten to identify the killer of this person in the book and had no idea who did it. Since no one complained about...more
Slouch down in your easy chair, put on some vinyl (jazz will do), open a bottle of brew and drift back to the time when life was lived on the edge. It's the 30's in LA when women's share came from smooth talking, silk stockings and holding back nothing to get what you want. The Law was just like the grifters only with a badge. They moved back and forth between the courthouse and the seedy part of town with money to slap the hand of anyone with news to sell.

Money was the goal anyway you could ge...more
Jason Koivu
What style! Holy Moses! Chandler writes with a purpose: to put you right in the shit. In The Big Sleep he writes with the economy of biting words that surrounds Philip Marlowe, a detective whose seen the hardbitten world, with the street's lexicon.

Hardboiled? Certainly. But I've read some hardboiled stuff that was boiled down to a tasteless mass. This stuff's full of flavor, bitter and sometimes bittersweet.

You've seen the movie, now read the book. They're similar in style, but the story diffe...more
Okay, so it wasn't bad. There's lots of fistfights and shooting and dames, and our detective hero is appropriately jaded and tight-lipped. The bad guys are crazy, the women are freaks in both the streets and the sheets, and there's a subplot involving a pornography racket. Everyone talks in 30's-tastic slang and usually the reader has no idea what everyone keeps yelling about. It's a violent, fast-paced, garter-snapping (the Depression equivalent of bodice-ripping, I imagine) detective thriller,...more
This isn’t really a review so much as a quick word of appreciation for a book I read decades ago. I suspect before Chandler and his ilk came along, crime fiction was much softer boiled. It also seems to have been a precursor for some excellent contemporary crime drama. Might The Sopranos, The Wire, and countless others owe a debt of gratitude to books like this for their intricate plotting, their colorful language, their stylized writing, and that definitive noir feel?

Over time I seem to have fu...more
James Thane
What can one possibly say about this book that has not already been said? When a dying millionaire needs help, Philip Marlowe answers the call and changes forever the course of crime fiction.

This is the first of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe novels, featuring a complex plot with twists and turns so sharp that even the author ultimately couldn't figure them out, but so beautifully written that nobody cares. And at the heart of it all is the man who will become the prototypical P.I. with a co...more
I'm usually a plot-challenged person. It takes me awhile to be able to figure out what's going on when a movie or book plot gets too complicated, with the double-crosses and the lies and the reversals...the chess game is usually too much for me.

I don't usually hold that against the story I'm being told, I just figure it wasn't my cup of tea and let it go.

This one, though, I loved every minute of and will absolutely have to reread someday. Just to re-savor all the little crackling asides, poetic...more
Since I've been reading a lot of detective-type urban fantasy lately, I decided to pick up one of the original texts of the genre, just to see what it was like.

Chandler wrote this back in 1939, and the book itself holds up remarkably well even though it's been 70 years.

It's very readable. Some of the slang is a little opaque, sure, but not nearly as much as you'd think.

And some of the intuitive leaps Philip Marlow takes are a little difficult to grasp. But I'm not sure if that's because

1) th...more
Will someone please purge Peter Falk's voice from my head? I swear the man learned how to speak by having this book read to him as a child.

Again, shame on me for not having read yet another American classic. I've always been a fan of noir in movies or on television, but had not read much at all, until recently. So I set out to make up for my un-American pinko commie ways and read a red-blooded American mystery. Now I honestly can't tell whether Raymond Chandler loved or hated America.

I can tell...more
A crippled millionaire with rapidly failing health hires Philip Marlowe to investigate seemingly simple blackmail case involving one of his daughters. The cynical PI charges only $25 a day plus expenses. For this money he got shot at several times, was knocked out by a blow in his head, met quite a few dead people and helped some of them meet their early demise directly and indirectly. I would say he got a lot of excitement for a very low price.

I really need to say a couple of words about Raymo...more
Do you know that early episode of Scrubs (yes, I really am going to begin this review with a Scrubs reference) where J.D. is trying to stop his relationship with Elliot falling into the 'friend zone'? The idea is that after that first flirty moment, you've got 48 hours to seal it with a kiss, or you're stuck forever in the 'friend zone'.

I got given The Big Sleep in the omnibus collection of Marlowe books 1,2 and 6 on a long term loan/gift, from my friend Justin (the same awesome Zimbabwean s...more
General Sternwood, a millionaire in 1930s Los Angeles, hires Phillip Marlowe to investigate a man who claims to have controversial photos of his socialite daughter. However, as Marlowe's investigation progresses, he finds himself in for a little more than he bargained for (excuse the cliche).

In the last few years, I have developed quite an appetite for detective fiction. However, in the past few months, I've wanted to dig deep into the hard-boiled and noir sub-genre. What better place to start t...more
Review from Badelynge
The Big Sleep is Raymond Chandler's debut novel published in 1939 and it's a corker featuring Chandler's now iconic hard boiled private detective Philip Marlowe. It's filled with memorable characters; tough guys, wise guys, grifters and chancers all playing their roles in the tangled web of a plot. Although complex I really like how much of the detail in the book actually turns out to be connected with everything else. There is no hiding the answers behind piles of irrelevan...more
I’ve often thought that 1930s America - the setting of The Big Sleep - is a place I’d like to be. Swing bands, dance halls, jitter bugs, the developing tenor saxophone and the gutsy blues rifts that came from the burgeoning soloists ....a time when Jazz was important and influential on society. Amazing. I’ve had tons of daydreams about this era, of jamming with Coleman Hawkins or Lester Young or Ben Webster, feathers in hair, drinking illegal beverage in a Blind Pig.
Dec 30, 2011 Mike rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of hard boiled crime and noir
Recommended to Mike by: Goodreads Group Pulp Fiction
The Big Sleep,The Debut of Philip Marlowe

Welcome to sunny L.A. It's sunny unless you're caught without an umbrella or you're dead.

It's 1939. A lot of people don't know it, but in a couple of years, a lot of girls and boys are going to take the big sleep, courtesy of, if you want to call them men, Hitler, Hirohito, and Mussolini. Now there's an axis of evil. It's something called World War II. Forget about that "War to end all wars" stuff.

Me, I wasn't born yet. After I was more than a glint in Mo...more
There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

This is the opening to Chandler's short story "Red Wind" and the excerpt that brought h...more
Apr 05, 2014 Paul rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who enjoys Pulp Fiction, Noir, Hard Case Crime or Thrillers
Recommended to Paul by: GOD
Shelves: noir

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

Ah, the wonderful Raymond Chandler.

'The Big Sleep' (a euphemism for Death), is the first novel written by Chandler, featuring the wise cracking Phillip Marlowe. Chandler's style has often been copied & more often than not, butchered, by would-be, wanna-be contenders, in the 70+ years since Chandler penned his wonderful Marlowe novels. Chandler practically invented the 'Noir' genre with his witty, sardonic & beautiful prose. I love how Chandler has Marlo...more
Looking back now, The Big Sleep looks like a crucial point of transition from being an voracious but indiscriminate reader to, well, a more discriminate reader of serious Literatuh. Before that time most of my reading was centered on Agatha Christie mysteries and equally amusing diversions, so after the Bogie and Bacall classic brought this novel to my attention about halfway through high school, I figured "awesome, more mysteries!" and checked out Chandler's novel from my local library.

I don't...more
Cathy DuPont
Loving mysteries, I've read many times, 'this character reminds readers of Chandler's Philip Marlowe, known as the basis of the modern P. I.' Read many books which refer to Chandler or Marlowe, but up until now, never read him. Those days are past, thank goodness, because I've discovered an author I love.

Published in 1939, the book was as fresh to me as if it was published last week. Can't recall one time when I thought, hum, he wouldn't do that because of such and such. My favorite bookseller...more
About 80 pages in, I realized I had lost the plot, but didn't really care because of how amazingly "rich" the inner and outer dialogue of Phillip Marlowe, Chandler's hero private detective, is. It was hard to keep track of all the characters and murders, but if you can get 70%, it's worth it for all the golden tossed-off simile/metaphors that make up the narrative voice that we now think of as noir cliche. One cool thing is that in Stephen King's "On Writing," he mentions how during the filming...more
General Sternwood is a sick but wealthy old man who is troubled by wild and uncontrollable daughters and grieving for the sudden disappearance of his son-in-law, whom his was very close with. He called in the services of PI, Philip Marlowe to investigate a blackmail attempt on one of his daughters.

Marlowe had his hand full with the Generals daughters associating with dangerous and crooked men, and Marlowe trying to fend off one very frisky daughter who is popping up in places, nude and doped, a...more
I'm no fan of mysteries, except perhaps the general mystery surrounding life, and I see crime enough in the every day without feeling the need to return to it for entertainment, and I'm not at all a fan of the hard-boiled detective with his hard-to-stomach arrogance (and what an apt adjective, this "hard-boiled," the golden yolk turned gray and flavorless when held over the flame too long). But I'm always a fan of a well written book, no matter what the genre. And Chandler's book qualifies.

It i...more
An amazingly good first novel & a perfect example of a hard-boiled detective novel. Surprisingly, the story survived the years very well. While some elements date it (cars don't have separate starter buttons any more) most of the story could fit any time in the past century well. There were plenty of details to grab on to, but I found the lack of detail just as interesting. It allowed the reader a lot of personal range.
Nov 12, 2007 Kelly rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: mystery/noir fans
Well. There are rare occasions when my friends are right. This is one of them. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed The Big Sleep. I didn't think I was going to, but it really drew me in. I read it in two days, between classes and skipping work to do it, the way I used to read in high school. I haven't done that for awhile. This book came at exactly the right time to encourage me to remember what it's like to flip pages like that, so I thank it for that.

I think the thing I liked best about it (aside f...more
Comment upon second reading: Philip Marlowe's fate is the same as it was the first time I read this book: to be a five-star character trapped in a three-star novel (which, on a metaphysical level, means that it is actually a four-star novel).

Comment upon third reading: Okey, Raymond Chandler, you win. I'm no longer obsessing about the (not inconsiderable) defects in this novel's plot, which has freed my brain to marvel at the incredible craft of your writing at the level of the chapter, the page...more
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Raymond Thornton Chandler was an American novelist and screenwriter.

In 1932, at age forty-four, Raymond Chandler decided to become a detective fiction writer after losing his job as an oil company executive during the Depression. His first short story, "Blackmailers Don't Shoot", was published in 1933 in Black Mask, a popular pulp magazine. His first novel, The Big Sleep, was published in 1939. In...more
More about Raymond Chandler...
The Long Goodbye (Philip Marlowe, #6) Farewell, My Lovely The Lady in the Lake The High Window Trouble is My Business

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“Dead men are heavier than broken hearts.” 181 likes
“I don't mind your showing me your legs. They're very swell legs and it's a pleasure to make their acquaintace. I don't mind if you don't like my manners. They're pretty bad. I grieve over them during the long winter nights.” 121 likes
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