Monday, November 24, 2014

The Guardian's 100 Best Novels: No. 62 - 'The Big Sleep' By Raymond Chandler (1939)

Robert McCrum at the British newspaper the Guardian offers a piece on Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, selected by the newspaper as number 62 in their 100 Best Novels series.

Enter Philip Marlowe, one of the great characters in the Anglo-American novel, a protagonist to rival and possibly surpass Sherlock Holmes. Marlowe holds the key to the enduring appeal of this novel and the six that followed. In 1951, Chandler told his publisher, “It begins to look as though I were tied to this fellow for life.”

Maybe he should not have been surprised. Chandler fully understood the archetypal fictional detective, and had been polishing the character for years. In The Simple Art of Murder (1950) he describes such a man in a famous passage:

“He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man… He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness.”

Chandler might have been describing Philip Marlowe, who made his debut in this first novel, after several appearances in Chandler’s pulp fiction stories. He once observed of his celebrated style: “I’m an intellectual snob who happens to have a fondness for the American vernacular, largely because I grew up on Latin and Greek.”

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read my Crime Beat column on Raymond Chandler's influence on crime novels and crime films via the below link:
And you can read my interview with Tom Williams, who wrote a Raymond Chandler biography via the below link:

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