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Raymond Chandler

The Big Sleep

Buchbesprechung von Philipp Nigsch

(simplified version)

About the author

CHANDLERRaymond Chandler was born in Chicago in 1888. He went to Europe in his teenage years. There he started to write. In 1912 he returned to America and settled in California. He worked for an oil company and got married.

He started writing again, because his career in oil ended when the Great Depression hit the USA in the 30ies. He produced stories for pulp magazines, but in 1939 he produced his first novel. It was The Big Sleep. He continued his work and published six more novels, many of which were made into movies.

Chandler was also elected President of the Mystery Writers of America. He died in California in 1959.

Books by Raymond Chandler:

  • The Big Sleep (1939)
  • Trouble is My Business (1939)
  • Farewell, My Lovely (1940)
  • The High Window (1942)
  • The Lady in the Lake (1943)
  • The Little Sister (1949)
  • The Simple Art of Murder (1950)
  • The Long Good-Bye (1954)
  • Playback (1958)
  • Poodle Springs (1989)

The plot

The Big SleepPhilip Marlowe, a private detective, is hired by Mr. Sternwood, an old man who is looking for Rusty Reagan, a friend of his daughter Vivian. Mr. Sternwood has two daughters. Their names are Vivian and Carmen. Marlowe gets some information about Rusty and begins to look for him. He starts his search at Geiger’s bookstore. He notices that there is something wrong about the bookstore. People go into a secret room and after about half an hour they come back. Marlowe follows one man and he gets hold of the suitcase he has got at the bookstore. In it there are a lot of dirty pornographic pictures.

Next he sees somebody kill Geiger in his apartment. Carmen Sternwood is in the same room, without clothes. The next day a man calls Marlowe and says that Owen Tayler is dead. Owen Tayler was Sternwood’s chauffeur. Later Marlowe is held prisoner by Eddie Mars. Eddie Mars is a crook who has killed some people.

Finally Marlowe finds out that Geiger was using Carmen to blackmail her father, but also that Eddie Mars was behind Geiger.


The film

The Big Sleep was filmed by Howard Hawks with Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart as Vivian Sternwood and Philip Marlowe. Their private romance, which eventually led to their marriage, is reflected in some of the movie's dialogues.

Some quotes from the movie

M:
Why don't you ask him?
V:
You know, I don't see what there is to be cagey about, Mr. Marlowe. And I don't like your manners.
M:
Well, I'm not crazy about yours. I didn't ask to see you. I don't mind if you don't like my manners. I don't like them myself. They're pretty bad. I grieve over them long winter evenings. And I don't mind your ritzing me, or drinking your lunch out of a bottle, but don't waste your time trying to cross-examine me.
V:
People don't talk to me like that.
M:
Ohhh.
V:
Do you always think you can handle people like, uh, trained seals?
M:
Hmm, hmm. I usually get away with it, too.
V:
How nice for you.

Bacall

V:
You go too far Marlowe.
M:
Those are harsh words to throw at a man, especially when he's walking out of your bedroom.

M:
She tried to sit in my lap while I was standing up.

M:
My, my, my. Such a lot of guns around town and so few brains!

V:
Tell me: What do you usually do when you're not working?
M:
Oh, play the horses, fool around.
V:
No women?
M:
I'm generally working on something most of the time.
V:
Could that be stretched to include me?
M:
Well I like you. I've told you that before.
V:
I like hearing you say it. But you didn't do much about it.
M:
Well, neither did you.
V:
Well, speaking of horses, I like to play them myself. But I like to see them work out a little first, see if they're front-runners or come from behind, find out what their whole card is. What makes them run.
M:
Find out mine?
V:
I think so.
M:
Go ahead.
V:
I'd say you don't like to be rated. You like to get out in front, open up a lead, take a little breather in the backstretch, and then come home free.
M:
You don't like to be rated yourself.
V:
I haven't met anyone yet that can do it. Any suggestions?
M:
Well, I can't tell till I've seen you over a distance of ground. You've got a touch of class, but, uh...I don't know how - how far you can go.
V:
A lot depends on who's in the saddle. Go ahead Marlowe, I like the way you work. In case you don't know it, you're doing all right.
M:
There's one thing I can't figure out.
V:
What makes me run?
M:
Uh-huh.
V:
I'll give you a little hint. Sugar won't work. It's been tried.

V:
You've forgotten one thing. (He arches his eyebrows and turns toward her.) Me.
M:
(pulling her to him): What's wrong with you?
V:
Nothing you can't fix.

BOGIE & BACALL

My opinion

The book isn’t too difficult to read. The problem is that there are many characters and many names to remember.


Links

The Raymond Chandler Website

Mystery & Detection Homepage