The Black-Eyed Blonde

download.jpgRaymond Chandler wrote his first novel relating the adventures of Philip Marlowe in 1939. For those that have forgotten, it was titled The Big Sleep and, as one review described it, The Big Sleep is an unavoidable masterpiece of modern literature.  Over seventy years later, following two excellent examples by Robert B. Parker, the author Benjamin Black (who is in reality John Banville) is keeping the tradition of the wise-cracking hard-boiled shamus alive with the latest installment in the Philip Marlowe legacy, The Black-Eyed Blonde.

But before discussing Black’s book I need to admit that I regularly listen to rebroadcasts of The Adventures of Philip Marlowe streaming on internet radio. I’ve probably heard them all, including the early Van Heflin  episodes, and I now have a real enthusiasm for the voice work of Gerald Mohr whom I long considered one of the greasiest B-movie actors in movies. Radio is my constant companion and with the advent of the internet, my radio is always on and I don’t ever watch television or go to the movies (except streaming on Netflix).

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John Banville

Blue GuitarJohn Banville is an interesting and often rewarding writer. and, like all good English writers, he’s Irish. Banville lists his greatest influences as James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Henry James. His prose is clear, exact, and creates a highly approachable world of realism without any hints of magic or fantasy. After reading three of Banville’s novels, I am left with the impression that I have read something good that has kept my interest, but the experience was so level and matter-of-fact that I never felt the need to slap my chaps and shout Yahooo!

Even so, I’m looking for my next Banville book to add to my reading list.

Banville’s latest novel is The Blue Guitar. It’s good. I read it to the end. And the point was? Perhaps the clue is the title: here’s the first stanza of Wallace Stevens’ poem,” The Man With the Blue Guitar”:

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The Sea

The SeaJohn Banville was awarded the Mann-Booker Prize for his novel, The Sea. It is quite well written and deals with such unique themes as memory, love, and death. Who wouldn’t love it .. other than me. Actually, I recognize the skill and quality of this novel and found it sufficiently engaging to read to the last page of it’s ho-hum narrative (luckily, it was short). Still. right on the front cover The Washington Post references the novel’s “power and strangeness and piercing beauty” … really?

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