The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Ever since I saw the murky, black-and-white film noir (a dizzying merry-go-round of murders and mayhem with a new character and a new accusation every five minutes that was Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in a classic gumshoe and siren routine), I’ve been wanting to read the novel that the story was taken from. The film intrigued me, even if I had to categorically organize murders and murderers in my head afterwards to make sure I got the story straight. So when I came across the book, I pounced.
I immediately enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek narration of the private detective, as well as the frequent jabs at Hollywood tropes in his observations of people and events throughout. It was a bit difficult separating the mental image of the movie from that provided by the book, but mostly because I have to admit the movie did a decent job of staying true to events and scenarios–where it didn’t is where the story got skewed in the film version. The book is a tightly crafted detective story with plenty of gambling, guns, girls, gays, and, of course, murder in spades. I polished it off in half a day, fueled by the witty dialogue and uncluttered action of the prose. I enjoyed the uncensored version of the story, the general, more realistic, insignificance of the character played by Bacall, and the streamlined and un-muddled chain of events that left no doubt as to what had transpired at all points in the narrative.
I’m not a movie adaptation hater, but I do prefer this book to its movie, while still commending the movie as a fun ride and as risque as it could reasonably be in the ’40s. And, in my opinion, Bogie is always fun to watch.
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