Chandler’s ‘Little Sister’ a fun intro into his genre

Chandler’s ‘Little Sister’ a fun intro into his genre

Chandler’s ‘Little Sister’ a fun intro into his genre(May 1, 2023) —  Hello, faithful readers. I missed last month’s column because I was still unpacking from my move to Portland.

I won’t say how many boxes of books there were, but I can say I’m down to unpacking the last 12. To my surprise and good luck, I found a copy of Raymond Chandler’s “The Little Sister.”

I’ve never read a Chandler book, although the films “The Big Sleep,” “The Long Goodbye” and “Trouble Is My Business” are familiar titles – especially “The Big Sleep” because of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

Since I can’t compare Chandler novels, what I can say is that if they are half as much fun to read as “The Little Sister,” I wholeheartedly recommend them. “The Little Sister” is a Philip Marlowe noir mystery with almost nonstop action, even when Marlowe is avoiding mayhem.

What made it so much fun for me is that I wasn’t sure if I was reading a mystery or watching a movie. Adding to my enjoyment was the fact that I was reading/watching Bogart. Honestly, I could see and hear him, and it made Philip Marlowe come alive. However, I never mistook the so-called Little Sister for Bacall.

Set in Hollywood in the mid-’40s, this is not a simple story. The characters are innocent and not-so-innocent starlets, bad cops – well, bad police departments, a missing brother, family secrets, drugs and gangsters. There’s plenty of violence without today’s explicit gore; same for the sex.

A young woman with questionable motives asks Marlowe to find her older brother, whom she fears may be in deathly danger. The woman is consistently inconsistent, which keeps the plot and Marlow at non-stop twists and turns.

I especially loved each scene where Marlow returns to the sanctity of his office: “The office was empty again. No leggy brunettes, no neat dark men with gangster’s eyes.”

Chandler writes his way visually into a reader’s heart. Case in point: Marlow asking to see a key character at the man’s office and being rebuffed by the “dangerous-looking redhead” receptionist. A brisk and insulting tete a tete ends with “Why the hell don’t you lam out of here, bud? Before I throw a handful of fat coppers in your lap?”

Is the brother ever found? Dead or alive? And who is the little sister? Are gangsters really a part of Hollywood films? Such questions bring me to my rapidly growing enthusiasm for reading as an escape from whatever might be troubling you.

Sunny Solomon is a freelance writer and head of the Clayton Book Club. Visit her website at bookinwithsunny.com for her latest recommendations.

Sunny Solomon
Sunny Solomon
Freelance writer at Clayton Book Club | Website

Sunny Solomon holds an MA in English/Creative Writing, San Francisco State University. She is a book reviewer for “The Clayton Pioneer” and her poetry and other writing has been published in literary journals, one chapbook, In the Company of Hope and the collection, Six Poets Sixty-six Poems. She was the happy manager of Bonanza Books, Clayton, CA and Clayton Books, Clayton, CA. She continues to moderate a thriving book club that survived the closure of the store from which it began. Sunny currently lives next to the Truckee in Reno, NV.

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