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The Big Sleep & Farewell, My Lovely (Modern Library) Hardcover – May 2, 1995

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

These two classic novels featuring private eye Philip Marlowe made Raymond Chandler's name synonymous with America's hard-boiled school of crime fiction.  The Big Sleep was an instant success when first published in 1939.  It centers around a paralyzed California millionaire with two psychopathic daughters; he involves Marlowe in a case of blackmail that turns into murder.

Farewell My Lovely, which Chandler regarded as his finest work, came out the following year.  It has Marlowe dealing with the Los Angeles gambling circuit, a murder he stumbles upon, and three very beautiful but potentially deadly women.
"Chandler writes like a slumming angel and invests the sun-blinded streets of Los Angeles with a romantic presence," said Ross Macdonald.  And George V. Higgins wrote:  "Chandler is fun to read.  He's as bleak as tundra, and his dirtbag characters far outnumber his stellar citizens, but Philip Marlowe is a laconic tour guide through a zoo of truly interesting animals."

From the Back Cover

"Chandler did not write about crime, or detection--as he insisted he did not. He wrote about the corruption of the human spirit, using Philip Marlowe as his disapproving angel, and he knew about it, down to the marrow."

--George V. Higgins

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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library
  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library (May 2, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679601406
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679601401
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.4 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #457,560 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Continental Op on January 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Seeing as how "The Big Sleep" and "Farewell, My Lovely" are the first two Philip Marlowe detective novels that Raymond Chandler wrote (published in 1939 and 1940, respectively), this is a grand place for a Chandler novice to begin pursuing the morally decrepit alleys and boulevards of the rich and not-so-rich in Los Angeles.
One thing you should note is that Chandler held the conventional detective stories (think: Agatha Christie) in disdain. Ergo, any attempt of mine to barf back the plots to you is a waste of time. They are so complex that you often forget exactly what happened shortly after you finish reading the books themselves...which doesn't detract from their quality whatsoever mind you. It's been told often enough that after their publication, Chandler often didn't even know what was going on in his own novels!
Suffice to say that both books concern murder among the wealthy elites in L.A. during Chandler's life--a time when the city was a lot smaller than its present size, and more hostile to outsiders--particularly to people of color. "The Big Sleep" concerns a disappearance and a reclusive millionaire and his two daughters (one is a mentally deranged nymphomaniac; the other is a bit more sensible, but no less shady) and the lengths he'll go to protect them. While this isn't the best Marlowe novel, this is probably the best place to start. Plus, it got made into a pretty good movie starring Bogie and Bacall.
"Farewell, My Lovely" is perhaps the most politically incorrect of the Marlowe books. It starts off with a murder at a bar in South Central L.A. and extends its tentacles into jewel heists and gambling rings where it is difficult to ascertain exactly who is doing what to whom. In Chandler's L.A., nothing is what it seems.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Farrell on March 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I read this largely on a whim, having had no exposure to this genre before except various parodies of it. I can easily see why this style of book in general and the "hard-boiled" presentation in particular remains popular 70+ years after the fact. After finishing The Big Sleep, my initial reaction was an urge to quit my job and become a private detective.

Chandler can write: he has an sense of vivid description, and his use of similes is masterful. His prose alone was a pleasure to read, but he also has a keen sense of characters, plots, and almost byzantine twists there-in.

Of the two stories, The Big Sleep struck me as the better of the pair both in terms of plot and presentation. I was a bit skeptical for much of Farewell My Lovely, as he seemed to be using a lot of "coincidence" to move things along -- something of a pet peev of mine -- but to my surprise he was able to tie it all together at the end in a fairly satisfactory manner. A calling card of HBDF is the slang and lingo, and there's plenty of it here, and quite often it made me chuckle.

These are interesting little time capsules of 1930s L.A. Modern readers with modern "politically correct" sensibilities should probably be warned that the books (especially Farewell) contain a good deal of un-PC sentiment: there are multiple racial stereotypes, N-bombs, and even a fair amount of misogyny. How much of this is Chandler's own view and how much is his imitation of contemporary culture I don't know, nor do I especially care. Others might not be so forgiving, so you have been cautioned.

This is worth getting for The Big Sleep alone, but Farewell My Lovely is a decent companion piece. I wouldn't want a steady diet of this type of reading, but it certainly piqued my interest enough that I will come back for more.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By johnglor94 on November 4, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Raymond Chandler was not just a mystery writer, but a keen observer of the human condition. In this edition, two of his Philip Marlowe novels are collected in one volume. These stories are positively ALIVE with atmosphere and characterization. Dont miss these novels, as a great introduction to Chandler's work. You can feel the emotions boiling under ther surface of these characters, especially Marlowe, an honorable man in an increasingly dishonorable world. Not to be missed!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By George Coppedge on June 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Raymond Chandler, the author, is the definitive writer of the detective genre. His wise-cracking, earthy detective Philip Marlowe constantly sticks his nose into dangerous places, sometimes catching the far end of a swinging fist for his troubles. And trouble is a euphemism for his working life. His books led to the creation of several famous films with Humphrey Bogart playing Marlowe. But having seen the movies, there is no comparison to the quality of Chandler's original prose.

Here are a few witty samples full of imagery from his books:

"I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn't care who knew it."

"I was as empty of life as a scarecrow's pockets."

"... he looked as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food."

"He looked as nervous as a brick wall."

Chandler's stories move fast and contain a lot of action, just like his protagonist. Marlowe's character is a bit of a blue-collar cynic, an occasional ladies' man, a rebel, and a steadfast (but sometimes puzzlingly) honest man. Marlowe is just an average guy who just happens to solve cases involving the rich and beautiful (and their dirty little secrets) in mid-twentieth century LA. And I suppose Marlowe's fast-talking, action-oriented character is one most of us average guys could identify with, which accounts for the success of his books.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book - I don't usually like reading fiction - and highly recommend it. Chandler really is a pleasure to read. Why couldn't we have read something like this just once in my high school English lit classes!?
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The Big Sleep & Farewell, My Lovely (Modern Library)
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