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.

  • Antonio J. Iriarte

    ESG’S The case of the Black-Eyed Blonde was originally published in 1944, and in 1958 it was filmed as part of the Perry Mason TV series, so Chandler might have been aware of both. Were Chandler and Gardner still in touch in the fifties? If my memory serves me right, their correspondence (judging by the published letters) had ceased well before that date. Interesting blog, Tom, thank you.

    • Tom

      Thanks for adding those details Antonio. That’s much appreciated. Chandler and ESG were in still corresponding in the late 40s but I can’t remember anything from the 50s. Given the pub date of The Case of the Black-Eyed Blonde, it would seem unlikely that Chandler could have been unaware of the title and since he would have been very angry if someone had stolen an idea from him — see the Rene Raymond affair — I suspect that he must have suggested the title to Gardner. Or that it was a coincidence.

    • twilliams81

      Thanks for adding those details Antonio. That’s much appreciated. Chandler and ESG were in still corresponding in the late 40s but I can’t remember anything from the 50s. Given the pub date of The Case of the Black-Eyed Blonde, it would seem unlikely that Chandler could have been unaware of the title and since he would have been very angry if someone had stolen an idea from him — see the Rene Raymond affair — I suspect that he must have suggested the title to Gardner. Or that it was a coincidence.