Raymond Chandler is Still Dead

30 Oct
The Black Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black

The Black Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black

I bow to no man nor woman in my appreciation of the great crime novelist Raymond Chandler. He wrote a handful of great stories which had the added feature of being wonderfully cinematic (or in the case of the Big Sleep not—which didnt make that film any less enjoyable). But as Philip Kerr (author of the Bernie Gunther series) observed in a chat with me, “…I am mindful of the reality that most crime writers write one or two, if not more, too many. And they flog it to death.”

I agree with Kerr, though I think that by their nature most serials run out of gas pretty early (with some exceptions,Kerr.so far among them.) John Banville, whose fiction I have enjoyed— even his nom de noir Benjamin Black’s Quirke novels. And now some one has resurrected the literary blasphemy of having Banville/Black write a Phillip Marlowe novel, The Black Eye Blonde (Henry Holt). In my recall, this gambit (calling it an idea doesn’t feel correct)was previously attempted when, as the story goes, the Chandler Estate “commissioned” Robert Parker to pen (or was it to complete?) a Chandler novel, Poodle Springs

Poodle Springs by Raymond Chandler (and Robert Parker)

Poodle Springs by Raymond Chandler (and Robert Parker)

Now this zombification of successful genre writers is apparently a burgeoning enterprise. Don Winslow wrote a prequel, Sartori, to Trevanian’s Shibumi. Ace Atkins has now published 2 Robert Parker /Spenser novels and Michael Brandman has taken up the Robert Parker/Jesse Stone series. And William Boyd has taken up Ian Fleming’s Bond with Solo (Harper)

The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler

The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler

I did read Black/Banville’s Chandler mimicry and if you haven’t and don’t intend to read the old master (or see the wonderful Robert Altman version of The Long Goodbye) then by all means have at it. It will entertain and generously viewed it is a competent homage. And there is no crime in that.

Currently reading Umbrella by Will Self (Grove Atlantic)

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