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

4.5 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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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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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

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 (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #447,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Kindle screen looked bright until IT downloaded. The mood then darkened like a winter storm in LA bringing not so much cold as dark and gloom with now and then a flash of tough guy wit followed by the crash of a violent come back from some underworld goon. The plots were as tight and twisted as a hangman's noose and the characters as many faced as stolen diamond. The message was clear. So, read IT, Wiseguy. Savor the noir. But watch out for the doll-faced lady with curves like a mountain road and the gorilla with a bulge in is overcoat pocket and nothing under his fedora but orders from the Boss.
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Having read these two novels years ago, I was very surprised at my reaction to them back to back this time. I felt like I had completely misapprehended Chandler as a 'hard-boiled' writer. This is, after all, a common misapprehension. And anyone who wants to make the case can go through THE BIG SLEEP and FAREWELL MY LOVELY and cite sentences like:

The blonde spat at me and threw herself on my leg and tried to bite that. I cracked her on the head with the gun, not very hard, and tried to stand up. She rolled down my legs and wrapped her arms around them.
...
I used my knee on his face. It hurt my knee. He didn’t tell me whether it hurt his face. While he was still groaning I knocked him cold with the sap.
....
So she pumped five bullets into him, by way of saying hello.

... but my impression this time, with all the revival of Black Mask and Dime Detective writers, Chandler's milieu, is that Chandler knew as much about mean streets and tough guys as Virgil knew about long boats and hecatombs- namely, what he read in books. In Schiller's terminology, Hammett was naive, and Chandler was sentimental.

Thirty years ago, I probably saw THE BIG SLEEP as a key to obscurities in the great Howard Hawks movie. Details that never made it past the Hays Code, like:

I knew about what it would be, of course. A heavy book, well bound, handsomely printed in handset type on fine paper. Larded with full-page arty photographs. Photos and letterpress were alike of an indescribable filth. The book was not new. Dates were stamped on the front endpaper, in and out dates. A rent book. A lending library of elaborate smut.

and

She was wearing a pair of long jade earrings.
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