Monday, July 28, 2014

Sleeping The Big Sleep

Every now and again, you just have to re-read a classic to remind yourself what great writing is like.

So being about to embark on my fourth mystery/noir offering, I figured it was time to pull 'The Big Sleep' off my bookshelves. Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe is, after all, the grandaddy of all private eyes - or 'private dicks' to use the vernacular (though I must confess that conjures up entirely different images for me).

Well, it's every bit as good as I remember it, possibly the definitive hardboiled detective story. The cynical protagonist, hard-bitten and world weary, pursues his investigations through the lowlife of LA guided by his own moral compass and sustained by wise-cracks and whisky. Secrets and corruption abound, illuminated by Chandler's incomparable one-liners: "He wore a blue uniform coat that fitted him the way a stall fits a horse."

There is something of Shakespeare's 'King Lear' about the plot line. Marlowe's client, General Sternwood - like Lear - is betrayed by his daughters' extravagant and self-serving ways, and violence is never far below the surface. Chandler himself once described the American crime novel as being 'dark and full of blood'.

"What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or in a marble tower on top of a high hill? You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that."

But although 'The Big Sleep' gives you much food for thought about human behaviour and motivations, it is above all a fun read. Femme fatales, sleezeballs and tough guys leap out at you from the pages. The dialogue sparkles like diamonds in a drain.

Grab it, light up a cigarette and read. You know you want to, doll-face.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Billy Ray Chitwood's Latest Novel is Out!

Billy Ray Chitwood's final novel in his Bailey Crane mystery series, A Common Evil, launches this week.

If you haven't yet sampled his writing, you really should!

My review is set out below, followed by book links and ways you can contact the author.


‘A Common Evil’ is the sixth book in Billy Ray Chitwood’s mystery series. It is also the first of the series I have read – but I WILL be back for more.

Chitwood’s detective, Bailey Crane, has moved to Mexico with his wife, Wendy, hoping for a quiet retirement by the Sea of Cortez. But fate intervenes and Crane finds himself caught up in a shootout with members of a Mexican drugs cartel. So much for a quiet life. From then on, things go from bad to worse for the ex-detective…

One of the things I enjoy about Chitwood’s books – apart from the absorbing passages of reflection on life and purpose – is that his characters possess a moral ambivalence. Tales about two-dimensional ‘good’ and ‘bad’ guys bore me to tears. Not only does this approach strike me as lazy writing, but it also patronises the reader. Chitwood’s protagonists, on the other hand, face tough choices and the decisions they make are not always good ones.

Not just a crime/adventure tale, this novel is a treatise on what it means to grow old, to have secrets and to recognize the things that bind us and the things that fulfill us.

‘A Common Evil’ is a quick read, but a satisfying one. Now I need to go back and start the series at book one to see what I’ve missed.

Click HERE to read a sample of A Common Evil (and to buy a copy if you have any sense!) 

Connect with Billy Ray:

On Twitter  @brchitwood

On his blog  thefinalcurtain1

On his website  billyraychitwood