The Big Sleep

Last night was our second session in the Mystery book club. Unlike the first, we didn’t really talk to the topic, the eternal triangle between the writer, the characters and the reader. We did, though, get a lot of interesting information about Raymond Chandler and the writing of The Big Sleep.

Our leader comes very well prepared, but seems so in love with his notes that he doesn’t really engage us in a discussion. It was very much like a college lecture in which he’d give us a theme, ask for some comments on the theme, read to us from the book in support of the theme, get another comment and move on. Some in the audience, markedly lower than the previous session, still had things to contribute but he barreled ahead. There was at least one case where a comment didn’t fit his point and he ignored it and continued on his way.

During the break, I wandered over to the one guy I recognized from the baseball book talks. He and I agreed that our baseball leader engaged us in much more of a discussion. While he came equally well prepared, he was ready to put his notes aside and let the people have their say until he needed to direct the conversation once more. I later asked the librarian if we’d have more baseball talks and she admitted the thought had crossed her mind so here’s hoping…

The Big Sleep is very much a product of its time, 1939, the tail end of the Depression. It fit the requirements of noir fiction and we did delve a bit into noir and the pulps. We traced some of the American fiction themes back to Edgar Allen Poe but also got into the film work of Alan Ladd and the Lone Ranger so it was interesting hearing our leader’s perspective.

I liked the book and appreciated how it fulfilled the obligations of the form. I now more clearly see how Chandler’s work informs that of Robert B. Parker, the only mystery writer I seem to follow regularly.

Apparently the library was surprised by the high sign up so there aren’t enough copies of the next book available. I’ll keep checking, thankful that we have three weeks before the next session.