The Black-Eyed Blonde

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Or: Someone in charge of the Raymond Chandler Estate apparently decided they could shake a few more bucks out of the fans of private eye Phillip Marlowe. And so British author Benjamin Black steps into Chandler's very large (gum)shoes.

And I'm one of the fans they successfully shook some bucks out of. I've read all the Chandler books, I've read Robert B. Parker's efforts at the sequel thing (not great), and I've seen most of the film/TV versions of Marlowe.

(Not that it matters but: IMDB has an impressive list of the actors who've tried to get Marlowe right: Humphrey Bogart, Dick Powell, Robert Montgomery, Elliott Gould (a revisionist take), James Garner, Robert Mitchum, and more. To my mind, Bogie's in first place of course, but Powers Boothe came very close second in the 1980s HBO series he did.)

Marlowe is put on this case by the titular Blonde: the captivating Clare Cavendish. She wants him to find Nico Peterson, a guy who (it turns out) just about everyone thinks was killed in a grisly hit-and-run outside of the Cahuilla Club, a reputable Palisades nightspot. But Clare is pretty sure she saw him alive and well in San Francisco post-alleged-mortem.

Nothing about the case makes sense, but Marlowe is infatuated with Clare. And (since he's Marlowe), the trail leads him into interactions with all sorts of colorful characters. Also, he gets beat up, tied up, and nearly drowned. Just the usual thing.

Look on Amazon, and you'll see all kinds of love-it and hate-it reactions. I thought it was OK. It's been quite a few years since I read any Raymond Chandler, but it seemed to me that Black was able to write some very Chandleresque prose without sounding like a bad Chandler parody. That's hard to do. His Marlowe seems to be a little more introspective and vulnerable than Chandler's, but that's OK. Age will do that to a person.

Without spoilers: there are continuing references here to people and events in Chandler's classic The Long Goodbye. You might want to brush up on that before tackling this.


Last Modified 2014-12-10 12:28 PM EDT