The detective fiction garlanded by the Hammett Awards in both North America and Spain owes much to the Philip Marlowe series of crime novels by Raymond Chandler. I recently bought the Kindle edition of The Big Sleep, which was the first volume of the series. Published in 1939, it is a great read today; the book vividly portrays post-depression LA where money, especially big money, was revered. This is the the seamy side of the land of oil wells and Hollywood where hard-hitting private detectives battle the lowest kind of criminals.
The novel is told in the voice of hard-boiled Private Investigator Philip Marlowe. This is how he introduces himself:
It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.
In the 50s I wore a powder-blue Cashmere sport coat as a sailor on shore leave in LA and can imagine just how Marlowe must have felt as he entered the Sternwood mansion to begin the story. The detective was dressed up to enter the world of money, but soon the story would turn gritty: sex, pornography, blackmail and murder. After 60 years, fiction noir is still exploring this world and readers are still buying these novels.
Take a break, instead of watching one of the many movie incarnations of Marlowe, visit the library or download one of these Chandler classics and imagine the dark side of LA as narrated by Mike Hammer.
Day 12: The Big Sleep (Raymond Chandler) (1939).