“What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or in a marble tower on top of a high hill? You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that. Oil and water were the same as wind and air to you. You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell. Me, I was part of the nastiness now...”
RARE ADVANCE READING COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION OF CHANDLER’S FIRST NOVEL AND INTRODUCING THE LEGENDARY DETECTIVE PHILIP MARLOWE.
“‘I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be.’ This sentence, from the first paragraph of The Big Sleep, marks the last time you can be fully confident that you know what’s going on. The first novel by Raymond Chandler, who at the time was a 51-year-old former oil company executive, is a mosaic of shadows, a dark tracery of forking paths. Along them wanders Philip Marlowe, a cynical, perfectly hard-boiled private investigator hired by an old millionaire to find the husband of his beautiful, bitchy wildcat daughter. Marlowe is tough and determined, and he does his best to be a good guy, but there are no true heroes in Chandler’s sun-baked, godforsaken Los Angeles, and every plot turn reveals how truly twisted the human heart is” (Lev Grossman, “All-TIME 100 Novels”).
The Big Sleep “was the first of seven novels to feature the famed detective Philip Marlowe... [It] represents some major departures in the nature of the detective genre, changes that necessarily reflect the world in which it was written. Corrupt networks map out Chandler’s post-Prohibition era, be they explicitly criminal or nominally official, and it is the gray areas in between that allow the detective Philip Marlowe to exist. The gray, claustrophobic urban space is a major constituent of the novel; set in Southern California, the location could really be any major city given that exteriors are almost entirely absent. Rooms, cars, and even phone booths represent a series of divided compartments in which the story develops, a series of points with no connections.
"This is Chandler’s first Marlowe story, but there is no introduction to the character; rather, we leap straight into the investigation as it gets underway. This is essential to the nature of the world and the character, a new kind of 'hero' who seems only to become active when there is a crime to solve. We know nothing of his background and only ever see him return to his office, and this only when a trail is exhausted. Like Sergio Leone’s Man With No Name, Marlowe combines a kind of shabby fallibility—a hard drinker who seems to be constantly beaten up by men and women alike—with an almost supernatural authority whereby he seems to serenely coast over the jumbled twists and turns of the case, observing and randomly following leads and providence, until a solution is finally reached. That this is in such contrast to the Sherlock Holmes school of detective work—where central to the plot is the immense intellectuality of the detective that allows him to simply consider at length the facts in order to succeed—is perhaps the most significant factor in the novel’s literary importance” (Seb Franklin, Britannica).
The basis for classic 1946 Howard Hawks movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall (with William Faulkner collaborating on the screen play).
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1939. Octavo, original printed wrappers; custom box. Fading and wear to spine, splits to wrapper joints (but holding); mild general wear. A fragile item: unrestored and in significantly better condition than most copies we could trace. RARE.
Price: $5,000 .