This collection of Raymond Chandler novels has been sitting on my bookshelf for quite some time, waiting to be devoured and adored and generally given the respect due to a Times Top 100 book. Unfortunately it was not to be. I just couldn't get into The Big Sleep, try as I might, and right up to the very end I found the book ungratifying. It may be a bit of a pat explanation but I attribute my lack of interest to my gender. I'm generally not one for drawling action scenes in movies either so it perhaps isn't surprising that I gave an exasperated sigh every time a drawn out stand off or monologue took place.
It is certainly a book that cried out to be turned into a movie, which is of course what happened (it's a classic starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Becall), and this leads into my second problem with the book. I found it lacked originality because it is written in the voice of the protaganist, detecive Philip Marlowe. Philip Marlowe is THE original trenchcoat-and-fedora-wearing, scotch-drinking, cigarette-smoking, stacatto-sentence-speaking detective. I've seen him plaguerised in cartoons, tv shows and movies my entire life. So The Big Sleep has really been ruined for me due to the deference that writers around the world have given it. Nothing in the story or characterisation was a surprise, so I was bored.
Chandler is widely considered to be the Godfather of the detective novel and the second book in this collection, Farewell My Lovely, is thought to be his best work. For these reasons I may try to pick up the book again, but it won't be any time soon.