The first fully annotated edition of Raymond Chandler’s 1939 classic The Big Sleep features hundreds of notes and images alongside the full text of the novel and is an essential addition to any crime fiction fan’s library.
Detective Philip Marlowe must find out who’s putting the squeeze on General Sternwood’s thumb-sucking nympho daughter and, if it’s not too much trouble, locate the general’s vamoosed son-in-law. But by the time Marlowe has negotiated all the molls and gambling addicts and blackmailers and pornographers and crooked cops and trigger-happy gunmen who populate this SoCal wonderland, a first-time reader may well have lost the plot’s thread ... There is no shame in that: Chandler lost it, too. But Big Sleep annotators Owen Hill, Pamela Jackson and Anthony Rizzuto argue persuasively that Chandler’s indifference to story is not just negligence but a deliberate subversion of the classic mystery-puzzle template.
But here’s the question: when I read The Big Sleep for the first time (or subsequently, for that matter), was there much in there that I didn’t understand? And I’m not talking about plot matters such as who killed the chauffeur, or why the cute but borderline-insane murderess isn’t prosecuted, but rather matters of fact and vocabulary ... The fact is, it’s rare, if ever, that we read a book and understand every single word, every literary allusion, every local or historical reference, just as we don’t understand every single thing we encounter as we go about our lives ... but ... there’s a huge amount to enjoy in the book. I found myself more intrigued by the background information than by the editors’ close reading of the text, which sometimes feels like they’re breathing over your shoulder and making arch remarks, telling you how to read ... The book’s bibliography is lengthy without being exhibitionistic, and the editors have even managed to track down a treatise on 'the lost art of walking,' by one Geoff Nicholson, that contains a short section about Chandler. Top-notch sleuthing. Marlowe would be proud.
Philip Marlowe, is an 'archetypal wisecracking, world-weary private detective who now occupies a permanent place in the American imagination.' His narrative style, featuring slang-filled dialogue, a panning 'camera eye' approach to scene description, and hyperbolic similes, is much admired and imitated. His depiction of Los Angeles in the 1930s and ’40s, furthermore, cast the city 'in some ways as the other major character in the Philip Marlowe novels.' ... The Annotated Big Sleep is a terrific addition to your crime fiction library.