Given how many thousands of times Chandler's style has been parodied, I was worried that I might not get much out of the original. But his prose just has such a lovely, muscular rhythm that I find myself breaking into a grin every few pages. Beware imitations – the real article can't be bettered:I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun.
Come on, you can't not love this. The plot is about as incomprehensible as The Big Sleep
was, but this time involves the lawless seafront development of ‘Bay City’ (a thinly-disguised Santa Monica). There is the usual delectable quota of seedy nightclubs, corrupt cops, cheap whiskey and dangerous women (including the famous ‘blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window’). As others have already suggested, a good chunk of the interest here comes from the insight into 1930s west coast society, its drinking habits and clothing and social mores, and its pervasive sense that law and order is a relatively new and shaky development there. A good slang dictionary is a useful companion, so that when a yegg pulls out a hog's leg before taking the fall for the high pillow, you can more or less keep up with events.
I love this. I'm two books in, and I'm already certain I want to read the lot.