I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized The Big Cabbage

The Big Cabbage

Michael Hinds
The Black Eyed Blonde: A Philip Marlowe Novel, by Benjamin Black, Mantle, 320 pp, £16.99, ISBN: 978-1447236689 Who needs another Philip Marlowe novel? We are already overrun with Marlowe-derivatives: from cinematic pastiches (the still wonderful Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid), trans-genre homages of various subtlety (Blade Runner, The Big Lebowski, anything with Clint Eastwood in the twentieth century), video games (L.A. Noire) to Martin Rowson’s arch deployment of Marlowe as a walkthrough decipherer of The Wasteland in his graphic novel of Eliot’s poem. Even beginning a list like this is a mistake, as it threatens to overrun. The iconicity of Chandler’s creation is so assured simply because it is so thoroughly various. In this context, actually attempting a Philip Marlowe novel based on Chandler’s notes, as John Banville has done in his guise as Benjamin Black, is a more complicated task than it might appear. It has certainly been beyond some writers before; Robert Parker finished off Chandler’s Poodle Springs in 1989, and it nearly killed off the Marlowe myth altogether, a dull if efficient checklisting of essential generics. It could be argued that Parker was only experiencing a difficulty with inspiration that Chandler himself had and that the best was over. By the time of The Little Sister, it is hard to escape the idea that Marlowe was boring his creator; rereading Chandler is a fascinatingly uneven experience, all the more unsatisfying when he is read alongside the virtuosity of Hammett. Banville-Black however knows what he is doing with Chandler; his Marlowe novel has everything you expect: some heavy drinking and fast talking, a slipping of a Mickey, a cold-cocking, a nasty killing of a fundamentally innocent woman, a missing person. He quickly moves into the classic Chandler duality of having Marlowe working the commissioned job while attending more thoroughly to the “real work” of upholding his singular version of justice. This operates as an apt enough metaphor for Banville-Black’s own work on the project, doing the work of Marlowe while laying his own claim to authority. At the level of style, things get very good when they run to ingenious unpleasantness ‑ “the air was heavy and dense and smelled like a fat man after a long, hot bath” ‑ or just downright weird: “When he was gone, his wife and I just stood there for a while. I could hear her breathing. I imagined her lungs filling and emptying the tender pinkness of them,…

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