July 16, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Geek Lit Classic: The Big Sleep

Philip Marlowe has what looks like a simple blackmail case. It leads to murder.

Does a detective novel count as a Geek Book?

I’m going to say yes because the noir style isn’t as big as it used to be, and that makes it more of a niche style of reading.  And if its a niche, then it’s for a Geek of some kind.

Besides, it’s on this poster of 100 Great Novels that Jenny recommended for me.  Since I got it, I decided to make sure I read all the books on it, and I was only able to claim 40 at first.  That’s 60 more to go…

Private detective Philip Marlowe has a new case.  Rich old man General Sternwood wants him to look into a small blackmail case involving the younger of his two daughters.  Carmen, the girl in question, may have done something she shouldn’t have.  The General just wants to know if whatever it is is on the up and up.  He doesn’t even seem to care about the money.  Heck, the blackmailer isn’t asking for that much.

Marlowe works for $25 a day plus expenses (later summed up as basically gas and whiskey).  While Marlowe figures the case could probably be handled by a lawyer, he looks into it.  He meets Carmen, who seems a little unstable at times, and her older sister Vivian.  Both women are trouble in  their own way.  Vivian is a bit cold and awfully ruthless.  Her most recent ex-husband Rusty, a former bootlegger, disappeared not that long ago.  Her dad really liked him.  She believes Marlowe was hired to find Rusty.  Marlowe has a personal code of ethics, and he will neither confirm nor deny what he was hired to do no matter what Vivian says or does.

In point of fact, most people he meets assume Marlowe is looking for Rusty.

As it is, this is a noir style mystery.  There are shadows and crooked behavior going on everywhere, and even the best people have their dark sides.  Marlowe soon finds himself dealing not just with blackmail, but also multiple murders, suspicious cops, crime bosses, and a host of other problems on what should be a simple case.  He’s holding himself to his own standards, doing the job he was given to the best of his ability, and not giving away his client’s confidential information to anyone, including the man’s immediate family.  There’s something dark about the Sternwoods.  Does Marlowe even want to know what it is?

This book is a classic of the noir genre, and rightfully so.  Terse writing style, cracking dialogue, moral ambiguity, and regret find their way into Marlowe’s world weary narration.  Well worth the read for fans of the genre, or for anyone who thinks they could become such a fan.  Sadly, my Kindle edition had a number of typos of the obvious variety, but I’d still give this book nine out of ten spurned seductions.