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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Mow the lawn, trim the shrubs, solve the murder

TaylorI have a rule that contends

Uncle Joe and Aunt Mabel were not the models for the characters in the novel you are reading.

My experience with the habits of general readers, even avid general readers, is that they have a tendency to latch onto something familiar, like a character who reminds them of Sister Kate, and then to make the mistake of reading the narrative as if it was actually about Sister Kate, even if subconsciously. The reader’s discussion of the book then tends to slide into anecdotes about Sister Kate and the actual text is shoved aside.

The same thing holds true for the setting: that house might remind the reader of Sister Kate’s house on Martha’s Vineyard, but it’s not Sister Kate’s house.

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