Howard Hawks, Raymond Chandler, Review, The Big Sleep

Review, "The Big Sleep" By Raymond Chandler.

Bogart And Bacall

If you’re a regular visitor here, you’ll know that, while I love to read, it takes me a long time to finish a book. What with writing full-time, family life, my garden, and looking after our dog, hens and  bees, I rarely time to sit and concentrate. As I’m a slow reader anyway, I’ve generally lost the thread and have to go back a page or two from when I last put the book down. Half the time I seem to be going backwards, which can be very dispiriting.

I received a wonderful haul of twelve books as Christmas presents last December 25th, so I’ve decided to post one review per month. That will encourage me to keep reading!

You can find my review of the first book I read this year, Cryptozoologicon Vol I, here.  I wanted to alternate non-fiction and fiction, so my second review is of The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler.

The Big Sleep is the first outing for Chandler’s Private Detective Philip Marlowe, first published in 1939. My copy is the 2011 Penguin reprint, with a forward by Ian Rankin.  The Big Sleep is a book very much of its time, which was an age long before political correctness. Anti-hero Marlowe drinks, smokes and wisecracks his way through a plot that has more twists and turns than a maze. 

Marlowe is employed by wealthy General Sternwood to foil a blackmail attempt on his younger daughter, Carmen. In other (apparently unrelated) news, Rusty, the husband of Sternwood’s older daughter Vivian, has disappeared. There’s a long and convoluted road littered with corruption in high places, heavy drinking, gambling, violence, smoking, swearing, and several bits that would never get past the politically-correct lobby today, but if you can get past the name-calling, this is a great read. Marlowe eventually draws almost all the threads of the convoluted plot together, and ties them up neatly. One loose end left dangling is Who Killed The Chauffeur. If you can’t work it out, you’re in good company. Howard Hawks, director of the 1946 film The Big Sleep with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, quizzed the author about it. Chandler confessed that even he had no idea! 

Despite a long list of characters, every one of them has a vital part to play and there isn’t a wasted word in the whole book. In common with all great stories, The Big Sleep transports you into a different world, peopled by well-drawn characters and set in a location far beyond anyone’s usual existence. Not many of us are likely to get mixed up in murder, illicit sex and a pornography racket (thank goodness) but we can all enjoy watching knight-in-sightly-tarnished-armour Marlowe bring his own sense of honour to bear on this serpentine plot. 

I could fill pages with great quotes from this book,  but here’s one of the best:

“Neither of the two people in the room paid any attention to the way I came in, although only one of them was dead.” 


The description of Marlowe opening up his office first thing in the morning is a classic, and the idea of driving in Californian orange groves (flat tyres, torrential rain and all) really drew me into the story. Wow. That’s what I enjoy in fiction— local colour!

book, Ebook, Giveaway, Goodreads Giveaways, Heart Of A Hostage, Princes Of Kharova, Promotion, Review, The Wild Rose Press

Heart Of A Hostage—Three Chances Of Winning A Free Book!

myBook.to/HeartOfAHostage
Find out more here 
How would you like to win a copy of my new book? The 4th December sees the launch of my next book, Heart Of A Hostage. To be in with a chance to win an advance copy of the ebook, or one of two signed paperbacks, read on…
Heart Of A Hostage is the third book in my Princes Of Kharova series for The Wild Rose Press. The ruling family of Kharova has already been rocked by abdication, riot and revolt in the first two romantic novels in the series. His Majesty’s Secret Passion was the story of how businesswoman Sara turned King Leo’s life upside down, while he changed her future. Her Royal Risk pitted perfect personal assistant Krisia against career soldier Prince Athan, while Heart Of A Hostage gives  Leo and Athan’s younger sister Princess Maia a chance to shine. You can find out more about all three books at http://bit.ly/1GEkZkJ 

I’m running a Goodreads Giveaway for two signed paperback copies of Heart Of A Hostage right now, over at http://bit.ly/1T2SK0w. My previous book, Her Royal Risk, ended with rebels disrupting the King of Kharova’s coronation. Princess Maia is taken hostage after the celebrations. Hidden away in the rebel stronghold of Castle Dukagjini, she gets the better of her captor after discovering his terrible secret—and discovers a lot about the nature of independence, too.


You can find out more from The Wild Rose Press.

Meanwhile, here’s a little taster..

She couldn’t pull back. Mihail was crossing more lines than she could count, and his deadly smile was a reminder of exactly how much trouble she was in…

…and there’s a longer extract from Heart Of A Hostage here.
I’m also running a separate draw for readers of this blog. The prize is a pdf copy of Heart Of A Hostage. Just post a comment here, and I’ll announce the winner next Friday, 27th November. 

Good luck!
Liveship Traders, Review, Robin Hobb, The Mad Ship

Revised Review: Book Two in the Liveship Traders Trilogy, "The Mad Ship"

In my review of Ship of Magic (Book #1 in the Liveship Traders series), I explained how DD had introduced me to the work of Robin Hobb when I was keen to do some reading outside my ususal favourite genres. I grew to like that book more as I read further into it, and was keen to start this second book in the trilogy. I loathed spoilt brat Malta in Book 1. However, i n Book Two, she develops a maturity and depth of character that had me cheering for her, right to the bitter end. She’s a fighter, and is on the way to becoming one of my favourite literary heroines. The moment when she recognises herself  in her loathsome travelling companions is priceless. It’s matched when Malta finds herself rebuking them in exactly the way her grandmother tried to reason with her, back in Malta’s good old, bad old days. Every parent will have sympathised with Ronica at that time. When Malta is forced to experience what her Grandmother must have felt when faced with a lazy, truculent wastrel, it’s a clever use of character development.

There was only one thing about this book I didn’t like. That’s not bad for a volume running to 906 pages, but this failing in the text irritated me so much it pulled me right out of the reading experience whenever I encountered it. I lost count of the number of times the word “muck” cropped up. On pages 673/4 in particular, it appears no fewer than 6 times. Now, characters spend a lot of time burrowing in, and escaping from, well…colloids of dirt. There’s no escaping the substance, but Robin Hobb seems to have only one word for the stuff. In my ancient Thesaurus, there are a total of fourteen alternatives to the word “muck”. Not all would work in the context of this book, but surely replacing the word with mud, sludge, slime, slop, ooze and mire would bring a bit of variety to the text. I know all about repeating a word for dramatic effect, and so – in another context –  does Ms Robb. This is apparent from the amazingly beautiful effect created by the repetition of the word memory and memories when Malta is finding her way thrugh the underground caverns, but that isn’t what’s happening here, with “muck”. All the constant overuse of the word does is to convey the author’s personal revulsion in a way that broke the spell, distanced me from the fictional world and tied me far too personally in to Ms Robb’s mind.
If the Liveship Traders hasn’t already run to a second edition, could this be addressed in future printings?
That’s my only complaint, and I’m looking forward to reading the final book in this trilogy.