When the Vancouver Public Library workers went on strike, I read more of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe than I had intended. The Big Sleep was the only novel that interested me, but the library’s first available copy came in a collection with three other novels (Raymond Chandler Omnibus [Random House]), which I was prepared to ignore; however, because I can’t return my stack of books just yet, I decided to continue on. And take my time, because the writing is so delicious. Chandler writes a metaphor like no one else— “She approached me with enough sex appeal to stampede a business men’s lunch”—and he can pack three or four into a paragraph for an effect that is both ridiculous and charming. The meandering cases of The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely are confusing, but I don’t care, because Marlowe, private dick, is an engaging cynic who gets involved with nasty characters by accident and stays involved on purpose, not for money or a sense of morality, but because of his own curiosity about the train wrecks these idle rich—some old money, some illegal money, some married money—make for themselves. Marlowe goes along for the ride just because he’s got the time to do so, and in the summer of 2007, thanks to a closed library, so did I.