I thought I’d have trouble when reading this of keeping the film out of my
mind, and I did. The first part of the book plays out exactly as the film
does, but at somewhere near the 2/3 mark, the two start to diverge around
the issue of the femme fatale. In the film, the investigation is a foil
between Philip and Vivian – solving the puzzle takes a back seat to the
smoulder of their on-screen chemistry. I think there’s probably an
interesting feminist angle somewhere in there, because Vivian in the movie
is a lot more powerful than in the book: she’s a player, albeit one being
played also. I also had some trouble keeping Ellroy’s somewhat grimier LA
offerings out of mind. On then, to the book itself.
I found it a very easy read – I finished it in one solid evening of effort
and the following morning before work. The writing was not beautiful, but it
did have some interesting flourishes. I didn’t get the sense of place that I
was expecting based on ‘s comments about his writing the
other week, but there is a keen observational eye at work throughout, so I
feel like I got a good sense of person. The characters were fairly vivid
sketches, and very economically done.
The plot of the book made perfect sense to me, not something I think could
strictly be said of the film. I now feel confident that I know who killed
who, and more or less why! Something I’d not really been too clear on in the
movie – but then, it didn’t seem all that important. Again, I found it hard
to keep Ellroy out of mind here – the shear difference in the scope and
detail of the story is staggering. To summarize the whys and hows of the
Big Sleep would take a few minutes, and really follows only two or three
main strands; to summarize White Jazz would take a lot more – though
I suppose really a lot of that is context rather than core information.
All in all, a fairly good use of my time, I thought.