The hubby and I just watched all three episodes of Masterpiece Mystery's Sherlock, a modernized (but still so very faithful) show about two of my favorite literary characters: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. It's gotten me in a mystery frame of mind and because I'm trying desperately not to pick up my Atlantic City beach book for this weekend (All Your Base are Belong to Us--curse you Random House and your amazing books, please hire me), I stopped at Barnes and Noble and, on a whim, picked up Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep. Smart whim.
I sat down in the cafe with a chai latte and read the first 20 pages. Given the era in which it was written, I shouldn't be surprised that it has much the same noir tone that marked The Maltese Falcon. While Chandler's Philip Marlowe has a little stricter code of ethics than Hammett's Sam Spade, he finds himself being forced to make questionable decisions while mired in a muddle of murder, porn, and disappearances. Marlowe is cynical but loyal and not above a little humor at the expense of others. Upon meeting his client's younger (but still twenty-something year old) daughter for the first time, he tells her that his name is Doghouse Reilly. The slang is sometimes a little jarring just because so much of the terminology has fallen out of use but always fascinating. It's a good thing I didn't have much human contact this afternoon because all I've wanted to do is use words like "dame." Also, some of the things written about a couple of gay characters would have sparked some outcry had they been written more recently. I believe, though, that content like that doesn't make the book less valuable or suddenly no good (as some seem to believe about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes story A Study in Scarlet, which portrays a group of Mormons poorly or how some people feel about the almighty Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and its rampant use of the n-word). Such content becomes a snapshot of history and a valuable discussion point in the classroom or at home.
I was laughing and gasping at turns throughout this book. Not only was it highly entertaining but it was very well-written. It was Chandler's first novel and I'm really glad that not only did he continue to write but that he kept using Marlowe as his protagonist. I'm ready for more mystery and definitely more Raymond Chandler.
"What you see is nothing," I said. "I've got a Bali dancing girl tattooed on my right thigh."
Her eyes rounded. She said: "Naughty," and wagged a finger at me. Then she whispered: "Can I have my gun?"