If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Chandler is probably the most flattered writer in the genre. In his sequence of seven great novels featuring Philip Marlowe, Chandler paints a stylish and remarkable portrait of a man of honour who is also a common man, a hero who never loses sight of his human failings. Building on Dashiell Hammett’s creations of Sam Spade and the Continental Op, Chandaler gave birth to a different kind of detective and, in doing so, he became midwife to an entire sub-genre of crime fiction. His incisive and illuminating prose reveals California in all its sun-bleached sordid reality; his smiles and metaphors are still unrivalled today, and his gift for storytelling is so powerful that readers never even notice the occasional imperfections in the plotting. It is impossible to pick out one star among his constellation; there is nothing for it but to start with The Big Sleep and continue through to The Long Goodbye.
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