“From thirty feet away she looked like a lot of class. From ten feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from thirty feet away.”
–Raymond Chandler, The High Window
There’ll never be another Raymond Chandler. Or will there? Irish novelist John Banville, writing under the name Benjamin Black, has written The Black-Eyed Blonde, a Philip Marlowe detective story.
It’s so authentic, says New York Times reviewer Olen Steinhauer that it “could be passed off as a newly discovered Chandler manuscript found in some dusty La Jolla closet, leaving only linguistic detectives to ferret out the fraud.” Apparently the book is too authentic as Steinhauer writes that he had hoped for “something fresher.”
Bob Hoover, writing in the Dallas Morning News, did not agree that the novel sounded like Chandler. “He’s [Black] too literary, for a start, to create a scene without calling attention to the common techniques of a ‘serious novelist,’ a state Chandler disdained.”
Mark Lawson reviewing The Black Eyed Blonde for The Guardian seems to like the more literary style. “What Banville, through Black, brings to Chandler is perhaps an enhanced literary sensibility.” The more literary take doesn’t put him off and he concludes that “the protagonist of The Black-Eyed Blonde is easy to visualise as an older [Humphrey] Bogart.”
THE BLACK-EYED BLONDE
Benjamin Black / 290 pp. / Henry Holt & Company / $27
Marlowe Reviews in:
Love the Chandler quote “From thirty feet away she looked like a lot of class. From ten feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from thirty feet away.” Priceless!
The answer is that there will never be another Raymond Chandler – and there really doesn’t need to be another Chandler. Any author that picks up where Chandler left off may be compared to Chandler initially but must eventually be evaluated on what they bring to the game.