The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
With a twisting plot that mimics the hairpin turns along Mulholland Drive, The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler broke new ground when it was published in 1939. Chandler's private eye, Philip Marlowe, is a tough-talking and hard-living gumshoe who meanders the dusty and dirty streets of 1930's Los Angeles with a cynical bravura all his own. Wherever Marlowe travels, trouble is sure to follow.
Marlowe is summoned to the mansion of an elderly millionaire, General Sternwood. A man whose paralyzed body has betrayed him and who is hiring the detective to squash a blackmail plot that threatens to bring scandal to the Sternwood family name. Sternwood's daughter Carmen, a budding nymphomaniac who's been running her life as fast and loose as a roulette wheel, has been signing promissory notes to cover gambling debts. An unscrupulous dealer of rare books, Arthur Geiger, is threatening blackmail and General Sternwood wants him stopped.
After agreeing to look into the blackmailer's hold on Carmen Sternwood, Marlowe meets up with the Colonel's older daughter, Vivian. Sexy and spirited, Vivian tries to wrangle the real reason why her father would be hiring a detective. Vivian lets it slip that she believes that Marlowe has been hired to look into the recent disappearance of Rusty Regan, her ex-husband.
Fans of Raymond Chandler thrill at the plots and sub-plots in The Big Sleep and, within the first few pages, it's easy to get lost in the complexity of the story line. Suddenly, Marlowe is not only investigating a blackmailer and a husband that has vanished, he also uncovers a web of pornography where a drugged Carmen Sternwood has been posing for sexy photos. Marlowe looks a little deeper and finds himself smack in the middle of not one, but two murders. The book dealer Geiger is dead in his home-based porno studio and the Sternwood's chauffeur, Owen Taylor, seems to have mysteriously driven a car straight off a pier and drowned in the blue Pacific.
Before long the plot thickens to the point of gridlock with the appearance of gangster, Eddie Mars, and a convoluted tale of illegal gambling, sexual intrigue and hit men who take pleasure in administering cyanide cocktails.
While most mystery fans have viewed the classic film version of The Big Sleep with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, reading the original novel is like a trip down memory lane to the heyday of Hollywood's notorious past.
Nothing and no one is as it seems. Shadows creep around every corner. People's lives are distorted and betray their hidden secrets like a carnival house of mirrors. Pretense is swirled with the smell of death. Each page brings darker, brooding and disturbing images that reflect an era that seems more sinister than midnight. Pick up a copy of Chandler's classic ... this novel definitely won't put you to sleep.