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The Big Sleep
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Archive - Group Reads > Big Sleep, The - May 2014

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message 1: by Leigh (last edited May 01, 2014 08:26PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Leigh | 6313 comments The first of our May Group Reads is The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. The discussion lead is Janessa. Look forward to an intro to the books and the author, and to a cracking discussion.

As usual please note we discuss all aspects of the books we read - the plots, the characters, the settings and so on - on our discussions threads. Hence the discussion threads will contain spoilers from the start. if you haven't finished the book yet be careful not to read others' posts until the end.
Feel free to use the spoiler tags, if you like.


The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler The Big Sleep (Philip Marlowe, #1) by Raymond Chandler The Big Sleep (Philip Marlowe, #1) by Raymond Chandler The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler


Summary: 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.


One of the videos featured on the group home page the first couple of weeks of May is an episode of an ETV series that focuses on Raymond Chandler. It is quite good.

Link: https://www.goodreads.com/videos/6411...


Janessa | 2216 comments Hello everyone I am your leader for the discussion on the book The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. I am looking forward to discuss it with each and everyone of you. All I ask is that you keep the discussion civil by respecting each other's options. I would like to start the discussion with a few questions just to get our minds thinking about the book and get some background information on it:
1. What do you know about the book?
2. What do you know about the author?
3. What do you know about the time period the book was written or takes in?
4. Why do you like this type of genre?


E.E. Giorgi (eegiorgi) | 11 comments I love Raymond Chandler's prose: it's witty, sarcastic, and unique. I know it's part of the noir genre from the '40s and '50s and other authors wrote in that genre (Dashiell Hammett and Ross Macdonald, for example), but nobody can imitate Chandler's prose. I think what I love the most about it is that it's sarcasm with melancholy side.

I read all Philip Marlowe books, but the Big Sleep is my favorite. The opening scene with the knight "not trying too hard" and the lady with "long and convenient hair" still has me chuckling.

Anyways, I'll stop gushing, but I do look forward to the discussion here. :-)


Janessa | 2216 comments I too like the noir genre which is why I choice this book for us to read. I have read The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett as well and loved them, plus the movies that both books are based on are also good. William Powell and Myra Lowell in The Thin Man are a delight together and of course Humphrey Bogart is iconic in both roles as Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade (Maltese Falcon). I feel that this characters have also become a part of our culture just as much as another famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes.


Gary Vassallo | 7 comments I've just started this and am loving it. Marlowe's observations and comments are great. I am also enjoying how the plot is being slowly built up. Can't wait to continue reading.


message 6: by Ron (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ron (ronb626) | 3758 comments I've seen the movie several times. Well, actually, I've seen the Bogart version several times and the Mitchum version only once. I liked both versions, but, the Bogart one more. Hence, the several viewings.

Only familiar with Chandler's writings a little bit. Robert B. Parker took an unfinished Chandler book, Perchance to Dream, and finished it in his psuedo-Chandler style. I've really no idea how much he copied, of channelled Chandler's style, but, I enjoyed the book. Always thought I'd read something by Chandler, but, never did. Now, with The Big Sleep being brought up for discussion, I thought it was a good time to do what I'd been putting off for so long.

I've read a couple other noir books, The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett and some by Ross Macdonald, and found that I liked the genre. Again, good time to read more with the discussion happening.

Looking forward to finishing The Big Sleep and reading/adding to the discussions.


message 7: by David (new)

David Kilner (boris1947) | 52 comments I was introduced to Chandler as a young man and fell instantly in love with his books. A lifetime of crime-reading (and writing) ensued. It's all your fault, Raymond Chandler!

Will re-read The Big Sleep as soon I've finished my current book.


Lynn Kear I enjoy reading and writing crime fiction and have a particular affection for noir. I also like stories set in the 30's and 40's, so I was thrilled to see this book offered as a Group Read. Somehow I never got around to reading Chandler.

He is a master storyteller and writer of dialogue, and it's been a fun read. I'm looking forward to further discussions.


Janessa | 2216 comments Glad to see that you are all enjoying the book and that you have found an author you like:)


message 10: by E.E. (new) - rated it 5 stars

E.E. Giorgi (eegiorgi) | 11 comments Lynn wrote: "I enjoy reading and writing crime fiction and have a particular affection for noir. I also like stories set in the 30's and 40's, so I was thrilled to see this book offered as a Group Read. Somehow..."

I agree. His dialogues are never boring, never obvious.


message 11: by S.H. (last edited May 10, 2014 06:52AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

S.H. Villa | 7 comments Raymond Chandler was a complex and disturbed character. He started writing ‘pulp fiction’ during the 1930’s depression as a way of making money. Born in Chicago, his mother took him to London when he was 12. Educated in a public school in England, he travelled in Europe, speaking French and German, aspiring to be a writer. But life kept getting in his way – WWI, a difficult marriage, success in the wrong careers, including boring bureaucratic jobs. His wife, some 18 years older than him, was his great love, but it didn’t stop him being promiscuous. Or alcoholic, as was his father. He was both European and American, swapping continents and passports several times in his life. A reverse of Henry James, the rich American who lived in and wrote about Europe; Chandler was the poor European living in and writing about the US.
His hard-boiled detective, Philip Marlowe, did bring him success as a writer. And what we remember him most for are his wisecrack asides, such as
- She approached me with enough sex appeal to stampede a business men’s lunch.
- Dead men are as heavy as broken hearts.
- Her smile was now hanging by its teeth and eyebrows and wondering what it would hit when it dropped.
- handcarved walking shoes… (I love that one!)
- I been shaking two nickels together for a month, trying to get them to mate.
And the scenes with all the blondes
- You have to hold your teeth clamped around Hollywood to keep from chewing on stray blondes.
And the movies made from his books. Say Raymond Chandler or Philip Marlowe and
up pops the image of Humphrey Bogart, no? Chandler definitely made the whodunit filmic.

But were the books also a send up of the genre, of the lifestyle lived in southern California, and perhaps of the Americans themselves? Tough, hard-boiled but essentially dishonest and stupid. Only Marlowe, Chandler’s alter ego, comes across as honest. Everyone else wants something, is on the make, whereas he refuses unethical offers, walks away from bribes. He even turns down beautiful women. Only Marlowe works out the answers, gets the bad guy under lock and key. Or dead, of course. The super hero of his day. Did he have his European tongue in his American cheek?


Janessa | 2216 comments S.H. wrote: "Raymond Chandler was a complex and disturbed character. He started writing ‘pulp fiction’ during the 1930’s depression as a way of making money. Born in Chicago, his mother took him to London when ..."

Wow! Thank you that was very informant I love all the different quotes you added. I too think Chandler is saying something about American morality at least form the 1930's Great Depression stand point. I imagine that people had to developed a tough skin me against the world approach to life in order to survive. Marlowe almost seems to raise up all that, that he seems to hold on some what to his humanity thus making him the hero.


Janessa | 2216 comments Janet wrote: "I watched the superb video on Chandler at the top of our page. So interesting. It was his much older wife that kept him grounded and when she was gone he sort of self-destructed.

It said that Ch..."


Its amazing how some writers using setting to help tell the story, it is almost like the setting becomes a character within itself. Never that of Chandler as being similar to Dickens that is interesting.


Leigh | 6313 comments I read a lot of Chandler while in college, but I can't remember any of it so I really enjoying it again.


Tonya Mathis | 73 comments This was the first Chandler I've read. I enjoyed the book. Many books that I read are in the same era 30's-40's,though they are British/Euro based. Now I have to go back and watch the movie and see how it compares.


Leigh | 6313 comments I am about half way through this really enjoying the writing. It is undeniably masculine. The slang used by Chandler is quite ignoramus too. I think I will need to watch the movie after this.


message 17: by Farhana (last edited May 15, 2014 09:48AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Farhana Sufi (f_sufi) | 102 comments Finished the book a day ago. I didn't really like it. I wish I watched the movie instead, for once! I like noir movies with the PI's first person narrative. And dislike reading the same style in text. The beautiful spoiled damsels were boring and cliche to the style. The ending was somewhat interesting with no sense as why Marlowe needed to please the old general. Failed to make me cheer. I realized again why I don't like reading Chandler. Just not my cup of tea. :-/


Leigh | 6313 comments Farhana wrote: "Finished the book a day ago. I didn't really like it. I wish I watched the movie instead, for once! I like noir movies with the PI's first person narrative. And dislike reading the same style in te..."

I think the cliche is a cliche because of this book.


Janessa | 2216 comments I have to agree with you Leigh about the book having a cliche seems like most of those types of stories do. Sorry you didn't care much for the book Farhana. If you could change the ending how would you make it different?


message 20: by Farhana (last edited May 16, 2014 01:08AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Farhana Sufi (f_sufi) | 102 comments Leigh wrote: "I think the cliche is a cliche because of this book. ."

I understand what you mean. :) Raymond Chandler was one of the best in his era of Noir books and movies. He is probably the inventor who introduced certain styles to the Noir genre.

But I din't use the term 'cliche' for the whole book or the Noir style. I used it for the "beautiful spoiled damsels", which is kind of boring. His books (I have to admit I haven't read many, since I don't like the first person PI's narrative style Chandler used), the ones I've read, all have these characters, the characters do not really vary much, nothing unique, especially the women, they are all alike. You can almost categorize them into two distinct categories - a) the beautiful spoiled damsels and b) the silver-wig vulnerable yet very very good lady. - very very boring for me, no varieties. :(

Janessa wrote: "If you could change the ending how would you make it different? "

I don't want to change the ending Janessa. As I've mentioned in my previous comment, the ending was the interesting part of the book - the whodunniit i.e.

But I couldn't find justifiable grounds for Marlowe's affection, distinction, or what it is, to spare the old General from the truth about his daughters. Saving his pride, what was actually the point?
(Spoiler alert:) Yes, maybe an old dying man was saved from hearing the end to someone who had shown kindness to him in his last days, which I get. But I didn't get as to why Marlowe needs to protect him from hearing the investigative results of his daughters lives.

Anyway, the mystery wasn't that bad, and Chandler is as I said, one of the style setters of his time. It's just that this particular style isn't my cup of tea for a good read. I just enjoy watching such movies more than I enjoy READING them. I think I'll watch the movie soon, and may actually like it a lot more! :)


Leigh | 6313 comments Farhana wrote: "Leigh wrote: "I think the cliche is a cliche because of this book. ."

I understand what you mean. :) Raymond Chandler was one of the best in his era of Noir books and movies. He is probably the in..."


I think this may the first time I have heard someone say they liked the movie better than the book.


message 22: by Farhana (last edited May 17, 2014 02:25AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Farhana Sufi (f_sufi) | 102 comments Leigh wrote: "I think this may the first time I have heard someone say they liked the movie better than the book. "

Haven't seen the movie yet, so don't know for sure if I'll like the movie more or not, I said, "may actually like it a lot more!" (with an exclamation mark). :)

Movie adaptations of books are not good most of the times. I try not to watch the movies made from my favorite books usually. But some adaptations are good, or okay, if you keep the book and the movie apart and can actually manage to consider them as separate entities, which of course is difficult. One very very good adaptation was the The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, I'm impressed by how Peter Jackson retained the charm and essence of the main storyline and managed to shorten it into a three part movie. I missed that many really interesting characters like Tom Bombadil got lost in the adaptation, yet the King's story was brilliantly surmised in the last part, most of which in the original book is actually written in the appendices. I don't hold any grudge against adaptations that have respect to the original author and work and try to make the best of it visually. Cloud Atlas movie was a failure in every aspect of that to me. Perhaps it would have been better if they made it a 10 part mini-series.


message 23: by John (last edited May 17, 2014 09:02AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

John  Ashtone (johnashtone) | 3 comments Firstly a note to US readers, S.H in post 11 says Chandler went to a Public school, he did but that is a Private school in U.S. Speak, it was Dulwich College.

I have just finished listening to 'The High Window' by Chandler, it was dramatized on BBC wireless 4, next week it is 'The Little Sister'
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b015ms42

A cracking Marlowism in the High Window, talking about a gun that has had its fingerprints removed and someone elses put on, this happens at least three times, to which Marlowe adds,
"I even put a set on myself just to be fashionable."

This last incidentally might be Chandler's classical schooling showing through, Tacitus in his Annals mentions about the era of the Emperor Nero, where he was basically putting trumped up charges against rich Romans, to the point many were committing suicide, "they would take a warm bath and slit their wrists, which was fashionable at the time."


And I agree with E.E. about Big sleep, the knight above the door in the Sternwood mansion, and he didn't look to be trying very hard "I felt I should climb up there and give him a hand."

In fact I might watch the Bogart film sometime and while I am at it, put it onto disc (it is on the old VCR at present). However famously the storyline is slightly changed, and there is a car driven into a quay, for which neither the director 'Howard Hawks' nor 'Chandler' could remember why this became part of the plot.

Both the films and the book though are basically the same story, and good in their own way, to such an extent I would say neither is better than the other, they are both distinct and yet similar, so stand on their own merit.


Leigh | 6313 comments Leigh wrote: "Farhana wrote: "Leigh wrote: "I think the cliche is a cliche because of this book. ."

I understand what you mean. :) Raymond Chandler was one of the best in his era of Noir books and movies. He is..."


I haven't seen it yet either. I don't think I have ever seen a movie staring Humphrey Bogart.


message 25: by S.H. (new) - rated it 5 stars

S.H. Villa | 7 comments Hey, I watched the film again after decades. They left out: nudity, homosexuality, incest and pornography. All in the book but not in the film. But plenty of guns and murders. Says it all, no?


Leigh | 6313 comments S.H. wrote: "Hey, I watched the film again after decades. They left out: nudity, homosexuality, incest and pornography. All in the book but not in the film. But plenty of guns and murders. Says it all, no?"

SO the stuff that really pushes the mystery is all gone? Can't say I'm surprised since it was 1946.


message 27: by Ron (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ron (ronb626) | 3758 comments S.H. wrote: "Hey, I watched the film again after decades. They left out: nudity, homosexuality, incest and pornography. All in the book but not in the film. But plenty of guns and murders. Says it all, no?"

Yes, they left those out, but, remember when the film was made. In 1947, when it was released, they couldn't show those things in a movie.

And, I didn't really think the movie was any less because of it. They still got the "damaging" photographs in the movie. They just didn't say why they were damaging.

To me, the biggest change from the book, was the love affair between Bogart and Bacall. That just wasn't in the book. But, who wanted, in 1947, to see a Bogart film that didn't have a love interest in it?


Leigh | 6313 comments I finished this book last night. It does take a few chapters to get into the slang used by Chandler. Some of his metaphors, though beautifully written, meant nothing to me. I liked the story though. Also, Marlowe is a great character. Now I can watch the movie.


message 29: by S.H. (new) - rated it 5 stars

S.H. Villa | 7 comments Ron wrote: "S.H. wrote: "Hey, I watched the film again after decades. They left out: nudity, homosexuality, incest and pornography. All in the book but not in the film. But plenty of guns and murders. Says it ..."

I agree about the reasons behind the form the film took, but what interests me is the psychology of it. Guns but no dicks, as it were. They even held their guns at crotch level. The US is probably the only country in the world where a president loses face for extra-marital sex. And yet I bet every one of them has indulged. Violent death, however, is on the must-have list.

I also agree with you about Humph. Of course Marlowe might tell two beautiful women to take a walk, but Humph... He wasn't even particularly handsome, but what charisma!

Did you notice that Faulkner wrote the screen play?


Leigh | 6313 comments S.H. wrote: "Ron wrote: "S.H. wrote: "Hey, I watched the film again after decades. They left out: nudity, homosexuality, incest and pornography. All in the book but not in the film. But plenty of guns and murde..."

Looking at his IMDB page I had no idea he had worked so much as a screen writer!


Leigh | 6313 comments I was looking last night they did a remake in the 70s. I've never seen the original but Humphrey Bogart is still the only way I picture Marlowe.


message 32: by Frank (new) - added it

Frank Hickey | 3 comments In my ten years as a private eye, I read Chandler constantly. He

was one of the first

and most enjoyable writers that I discovered. When I joined

the LAPD, I kept reading him and contrasted LAPD detectives of

1939 with the ones today. By chance, I now live and write my own

pulp novels of street crime near his home

in Palm Springs. So, he stays with me.


Chandler broke conventions with this book. He avoided cliches

and wrote scenes that disturbed 1939 America. He was not born

into or ever worked in street life. But he could write about it. And

he did.

Reading this book will change most readers.

He captivates me with his rollicking fun with words. He never

seems at a loss for the perfect phrase. Some readers will

want to memorize those words. They probably should.


---Frank Hickey, writer of the Max Royster crime novels

through Pigtown Books.


message 33: by Ron (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ron (ronb626) | 3758 comments Leigh wrote: "I was looking last night they did a remake in the 70s. I've never seen the original but Humphrey Bogart is still the only way I picture Marlowe."

That '70s version, would be the one with Robert Mitchum as Marlowe. I've read that it is more accurate to the story, with the exception of being set in London. I saw it years ago, but, don't remember much about it. Couldn't say if that accuracy account is good or not. But, would love to see it again after having read the book, finally.


Chris Vaughn (chrisvaughn) | 3 comments I enjoyed "The Big Sleep" but to be honest had to slug through the first half of it. Someone on Goodreads said the end picked up and thank God it did because I was about to dump it.

I love crime stories, and absolutely love Chandler's dialogue and the classic 30's/40's descriptions he uses.

One of the aggravating this is the ebook I bought was missing a couple of pages and the story had a strange bump.


Chris Vaughn (chrisvaughn) | 3 comments The one thing that did throw me is it is written in first person, and few stories today are given that perspective.


message 36: by Ron (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ron (ronb626) | 3758 comments Chris wrote: "The one thing that did throw me is it is written in first person, and few stories today are given that perspective."

Interesting. And, another read for this month, In the Woods, is also written in 1st person.


Janessa | 2216 comments Where is everyone at so far in the book? Do you think after finishing this one you would be willing to read some of Chandler's other works or something similar or do you like to mix it up? The edition I am is on my Nook and it also includes the story Farewell My Lovely, which I think is another Philip Marlowe mystery. Though I don't know what number it is in the series or what the storyline is.


message 38: by Ron (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ron (ronb626) | 3758 comments Farewell, My Lovely is the 2nd book in the Philip Marlowe series. And, since my library has it, I'd be interested in another Chandler novel.

I finished The Big Sleep a week or so ago. Enjoyed it. As evidenced by being willing to read another one.


Janessa | 2216 comments Finished it yesterday. Found it to be a hard hitting detective story with a lot of twist and turns, but I felt that all of these twist and turns slowed down the pace of the story and there were too many characters to keep track of. Although it did pick up somewhat towards the end, the ending left me feeling indifferent. Not sure how I feel about the protagonist Philip Marlowe though.


Chris Vaughn (chrisvaughn) | 3 comments Did it bother anyone that other than the crazy person ending (my term) there weren't any clues to lead you along to that?

I don't want to know at 30% of a book who did it; but I also don't want a reveal at 98% to catch me off guard.

I still love Chandler if for nothing else for the dialogue and descriptions of people; he's like walking back in time to light a cigarette...


Leigh | 6313 comments Ron wrote: "Leigh wrote: "I was looking last night they did a remake in the 70s. I've never seen the original but Humphrey Bogart is still the only way I picture Marlowe."

That '70s version, would be the one ..."


Set in London?! That is truly bizarre. Chandler is so entrenched with Los Angeles in my mind I truly cannot fathom why they would even try to take the character someplace else.


Carmen Amato (authorcarmenamato) | 23 comments Chandler's snappy dialogue must have been a breath of fresh air when the book first came out and his pacing, snappy descriptions, and wisecracks are still as captivating. Many of Robert B. Parker's Spenser books have the same vibe and Parker was pretty open about Chandler's influence. Parker even wrote the end to an unfinished Chandler novel called Poodle Springs (not 100% sure about the title.) What isn't as fresh is this book's bias against homosexuality, which is a product of the era in which the book was published. My book club read it and had a fairly lively discussion about whether or not books need to be read with their era in mind and books that are timeless vs dated.


Carmen Amato (authorcarmenamato) | 23 comments Janet, thanks for the info about the new book! I wonder if the Philip Marlowe estate is doing the same thing as Robert B. Parker's wife and continuing a series with new authors. But Chandler died quite some time ago, didn't he? They waited a long time.


Leigh | 6313 comments https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

Carmen, we had a thread a few months ago about this book.


Stephanie (quiltsrme) | 43 comments I read this book some time ago and still love it! I think I will spend June with some of Chandler's other books.


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