Category Archives: literature

The Black-Eyed Blonde – Benjamin Black’s new Philip Marlowe novel

Black Eyed Blonde

It was announced last year that John Banville, writing as Benjamin Black, would produce a new Philip Marlowe mystery. The details at the time were thin on the ground: the publisher in the US was to be Henry Holt and it would be released sometime in the autumn was about it. We now have a title, The Black-Eyed Blonde, and a revised release date, March 2014. You can see the Amazon page here.

I wrote a blog post for the Guardian which was broadly supportive. I still think John Banville is a great choice to tackle Philip Marlowe though judgement should be reserved until the book is actually published.

The title was one of several potential pulp titles listed in Chandler’s notebooks. It has been used before, as the title of an authorised short story by Benjamin M. Schutz in Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe: A Centennial Celebration, and, perhaps more interestingly, by Erle Stanley Gardner as the title for one of his Perry Mason stories. Since Gardner and Chandler were great friends it is possible that the Chandler suggested the title to Gardner. There is no mention of it in the correspondence I have read but Ray and Cissy were occasional visitors to the Gardner ranch and perhaps, over a coffee or a whisky, the title was mentioned. We will never know, of course. Gardner’s book is long out of print so it seems, for now at least, Chandler will be associated with the title once again.

Biographies and the Archives of the Future

An interesting piece appeared in the Sunday Times this week about cyberwills. You can read the original article here (there’s a paywall) but, in brief, the piece discussed how different people are choosing to deal with their cyber legacy. One option is a cyberwill, a service run by Cirrus Legacy, that will release all your passwords on your death to a nominated executor. It is their job to delete, edit or archive your digital legacy as they see fit (or, perhaps, as you direct them).

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Skyfall, Ralph Fiennes and Raymond Chandler

Rather like Sony, Heineken and Omega I am jumping on the Bond bandwagon. ¬†Skyfall, which you can hardly of missed if you’re in Britain, is the latest in the Bond franchise and it’s very, very good. Along with Daniel Craig and Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes stars in the film as Gareth Mallory, chief of the intelligence committee. It’s a surname that may ring a bell for Chandler fans because Mallory was the name of Raymond Chandler’s first detective (from his 1933 story ‘Blackmailers Don’t Shoot’). Continue reading

The Return of Philip Marlowe

A couple of days ago the news that John Banville is writing a new Philip Marlowe story broke. I’m cautiously optimistic about the news if I’m honest and wrote a short blog for the Guardian about why. You can read the post here.

UPDATE:

If you want to read a quite different opinion, Malcolm Jones has written a piece on why it’s a very bad idea for the Daily Beast. You’ll find it here.

Death Comes To Pemberly

I’m sure I’m not the only reader who was excited to receive P. D. James’ new novel, Death Comes to Pemberly for Christmas this year. The novel, a sequel of sorts to Pride and Prejudice, follows Elizabeth Darcy to her new home, Pemberly, in Derbyshire. Set six years after Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth is now settled and happily married to Mr. Darcy. Continue reading

Fantasy Fiction

For a long time I thought fantasy fiction was the sort of thing I should avoid. I didn’t like Lord of the Rings that much and I found The Hobbit a bit, well, childish. I preferred grittier or loftier things to read. Or so I thought. This week I picked up – metaphorically that is: I actually downloaded – George R. R. Martin’s A Game Of Thrones and it’s proved me wrong. It is packed with the sort of fantasy tropes I thought I’d hate – dragon eggs, dwarves, a mysterious group of creatures called The Others – but I could hardly put it down and have gone out and bought the next in the series.

Why was I so struck? Because of it’s grandeur and ambition I think. The books are about war and fantasy but they are also about politics and ambition. Modern literary fiction and crime fiction don’t really deal with the scope of politics and leadership very well and, all to often, they pay lip service to matters of state so that they fall short and feel false. In part because they are necessarily short these days: big books are harder to sell. George R. R. Martin doesn’t do this. A Game of Thrones is a fascinating examination of why men and women in positions of power act as they do and it shows the consequences of these actions in vivid detail. I can’t wait to keep reading the series and it’s great to be proven wrong too.

The Simple Art Of Murder

Simple Art of Murder, Raymond Chandler

The Cover From The Second Edition of The Simple Art of Murder, a collection of Chandler stories published by Houghton Mufflin in 1950 and prefaced by the essay.

Raymond Chandler’s essay The Simple Art of Murder is pretty much¬† required reading for any Chandler fan and any aspiring crime writer. It is one of those essays that has earned a place in literary history for its title as much as its thesis. Appearing in The Atlantic Monthly in December 1944, it’s a serious examination of the genre and it reveals plenty about Ray and about how he approached writing so to my mind it is interesting in both a biographical sense and a literary one. Continue reading