"When a dying millionaire hires Philip Marlowe to handle the blackmailer of one of his two troublesome daughters, Marlowe finds himself involved with more than extortion. Kidnapping, pornography, seduction, and murder are just a few of the complications he gets caught up in."I can never look at orchids the same way again. For in Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, one of his characters describes orchids as "nasty things. Their flesh is too much like the flesh of men. And their perfume has the rotten sweetness of a prostitute". Those words are spoken by an old and "obviously dying" man, General Sternwood, who has hired Philip Marlowe
to investigate a blackmail attempt. The General had two daughters - Vivian "spoiled, exacting, smart and quite ruthless" and Carmen, "a child who likes to pull wings off flies" are how he describes them.
"Numbers with names and numbers without names. Plenty of vacancies or plenty of tenants who wished to remain anonymous. Painless dentists, shyster detective agencies, small sick businesses that had crawled there to die, mail order schools that would teach you how to become a railroad clerk or a radio technician or a screen writer - if the postal inspectors didn't catch up with them first. A nasty building. A building in which the smell of stake cigar butts would be the cleanest odor."
And he doesn't restrict these descriptions to the scenery. Chandler definitely made me sit up when he described one of the supposed baddies as such: "His voice was the elaborately casual voice of the tough guy in pictures. Pictures have made them all like that." He hit the nail on the head with that one. Chandler himself is quoted in the introduction: "There must be magic in the writing but I take no credit for it. It just happens, like red hair."
It's magic all right.