Benjamin Black - The Black-Eyed Blonde
Sorry to do this but the Best Book of the Year won’t be out for another four months.
The Black-Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black (aka John Banville) comes out in March of 2014 and is a spot-on Philip Marlowe novel. Black/Banville has captured it all – the beauty as well as the brutality of the Mean Streets of LA.
Some time has passed since Raymond Chandler’s last major Marlowe novel, The Long Goodbye. He’s still smarting from the rough departure of Terry Lenox and has mixed feelings about Linda Loring. Sitting in his office one day, watching the secretary across the street type away, he notices a tall blonde crossing the street who, of course, is heading his way like a lovely landslide. It may be a bit of a private eye cliché but blondes do open the outer door.
This one is the daughter of a very rich woman who owns a respected perfume company. The book’s rich with smells as befits this elegant woman, Clare Cavendish. She wants him to find a missing man whom she saw through the window of a taxi in San Francisco. The catch is, of course, that this man was killed in a hit-and-run some time before.
And Marlowe is off on the case.
Is it that simple? No, of course not – never is.
There are thugs and goons and nattily-dressed gangsters as well as subtle references to all things Chandler – Latimer Road (mystery writer Jonathan Latimer was a friend and neighbor of Chandler’s at one point), and Rusty Regan to name two, and most of the action takes place in Bay City. Bernie Ohls is back grousing and drinking gimlets with Marlowe.
But it is Marlowe’s voice that clinches it, the world-weariness that underpins his view and descriptions.
“This must be a private beach,” I said.
“Yes, it is. How did you know?”
I knew because if it had been public, a shelter like this would have been so fouled and littered we wouldnh’t have dreamed of sitting in it. Clare Cavendish, I told myself, was one of those people the world shields from its own awfulness.’”
It might be worth reading (or re-reading) The Long Goodbye before you have a crack at The Black-Eyed Blonde. You have plenty of time, after all. Hell, in four months you can re-read all of Chandler. That’s a Winter well-spent.
"I sat down again, though it felt more like a collapse. On the table stood her untouched drink, with a solitary olive submerged in it. Her crushed cigarette in the ashtray had a smear of lipstick. I looked at my own glass, half empty, at a crumpled paper napkin, at a flake or two of ash on the table that a breath would have blown away. These are the things that get left behind; these are the things we remember.”
I, for one, hope the Universe is wise enough to keep Benjamin Black / John Banville writing Philip Marlowe novels. We need more