The Black-Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black
The Black-Eyed Blonde is “a Phillip Marlowe novel”, in the style of Raymond Chandler. The book is inspired by A posthumous list from Chandler includes a possible future novel of this same name.
Black works hard to create an authentic Chandlerian novel, featuring the famous fictional detective and his LA noir. Overall, he does a decent job, and certainly reminds us of why we love to read the originals.
The setting and characters are certainly something out of Chandler, to the point that it is almost absurd. Yes, we all love those stories, but were there no cases in the entire city of LA that didn’t involve snotty rich people involved in twisted nastiness?
The plot itself makes little sense, but that’s kind of the point. No one is particularly honest or clear in their motives or in their actions. Only the damaged and cynical Marlowe is playing it straight—that’s the whole noir deal, no?
Black takes care to keep to the period in most ways though the intervening seventy some years have given us a rather jaded view of that time. He contrives to slide smoothly by historical facts that would truly jar—how small and empty the city was, how racially divided, and how slow everything was: travel, information transmission, social change are way slower than we are used to today. I mean, people relied on printed newspapers, for goodness sake! How weird is that? Of course, the autocratic media mogul wields immense power, which is not weird to us at all.
Overall, Black’s writing is smooth and easy to read. He has fun putting Marlovian words in Marlowe’s mouth and internal monologs, and that is the important point, I think.
- Benjamin Black, The Black-Eyed Blonde, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 2014.
Sunday Book Review