The Black Eyed Blonde

The Black-Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black

The Black-Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black

Marlowe is tasked with tracking down a man who up until recently was believed to be dead.  However, it’s those who are also on the missing man’s trail that will prove to be Marlowe’s biggest challenge.  Can Marlowe find his man before two mean Mexicans do or did ol’ Phil bite off more than he could chew?

After Robert B. Parker finished up with Chandler’s iconic character in the early nineties with his sequel to The Big Sleep, “Perchance to Dream” (a review from The New York Times suggested an alternate title of “Sleep Bigger” – much better), no one dared to touch Marlowe until nearly twenty five years later when Benjamin Black was given his own opportunity with the character.  Did he have an interesting enough story to tell?  Sure, but was he able to nail that elusive Chandler style?  No – although he did a better job than Parker, in my opinion.

All of the hallmarks of the Marlowe universe are present: tough talking criminals, drop dead gorgeous women, more twists and turns than a figure skater, but the writing is off and in my opinion it will always be off.  At the risk of sounding like some sort of literary snob (trust me, I’m not), the writing at the heart of any new Marlowe novel will always be lacking something.  Maybe the similes aren’t up to snuff, maybe Marlowe isn’t ruthless enough, mean enough, I can’t put my finger on it but it’s missing something.  It just doesn’t feel right.  The problem lies in the fact that this is a character that only its creator could write and any subsequent release will feel like a cheap imitation.

I’m not knocking Benjamin Black (which is a pseudonym for acclaimed author John Banville) as he’s a tremendous writer, same goes for Robert B. Parker, but maybe it’s best to leave well enough alone and let Marlowe rest easy – Chandler’s seven novels contain more than enough material to do the character justice.

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