So I am now. I'd only vaguely heard of Chandler or the novel. I was more familiar with the main character this novel gave birth to: the detective Philip Marlowe.
If you read reviews of this book, the word 'hardboiled' is often used to describe it. It's also sexy. It's also mysterious. It also has wildly campy dialogue. But then, it was published in 1939 and I guess it would sound campy to us now.
Here's one passage I loved, a superb job done on setting. Marlowe walks into a greenhouse to meet a rich, aging client. Well-picked adjectives make it, especially "cloying smell" and "meaty leaves":
The air was thick, wet, steamy and larded with the cloying smell of tropical orchids in bloom. The glass walls and roof were heavily misted and big drops of moisture splashed down on the plants. The light had an unreal greenish color, like light filtered through an aquarium tank. The plants filled the place, a forest of them, with nasty meaty leaves and stalks like the newly washed fingers of dead men. They smelled as overpowering as boiling alcohol under a blanket.
Here's another fantastic passage, Marlowe describing the woman who greets him in a suspicious shop:
She approached me with enough sex appeal to stampede a businessmen's lunch and tilted her head to finger a stray, but not very stray, tendril of softly glowing hair. Her smile was tentative, but could be persuaded to be nice.
I'm not done with the book yet, but when I am I'll post a short review on a "Library" page (to be constructed) here on this blog.