Poodle Springs by Raymond Chandler
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
"He handed me back my gun, I put it under my arm so it would be there when the next guy wanted to take it away, [...]"
When Raymond Chandler, the famous author of several novels acclaimed as masterpieces of the noir genre, died in 1959, he left few first chapters of his new novel featuring Philip Marlowe. Robert B. Parker, almost as famous an author of detective novels starring Spenser, undertook the task of completing the novel that Mr. Chandler had barely begun developing, and thus Poodle Springs came into existence in 1989.
Marlowe is now married to Linda Loring, one of the most memorable characters in The Long Goodbye. They live in an opulent mansion in Poodle Springs, a fictional desert town transparently modeled on Palm Springs. Linda is the daughter of an extremely rich tycoon, but Marlowe refuses to live off her money. He sets up his office in a less affluent part of the town and takes a local gambling mogul - who naturally has some crime connections - as his first client. Marlowe is to retrieve a large amount of money owed to his client by a well-known photographer addicted to gambling. Of course the story gets much more complicated and quite successfully replicates the most famous Chandler plots. While the combination of two murders, blackmail, some very noir characters, Los Angeles vistas, and Marlowe's self-deprecating humor reads well, the whole package feels quite a bit derivative.
Alas, Poodle Springs is not a good novel. And it is not Mr. Parker's fault. He does what he can but is unable to save the horrible dud of a setup. The first four chapters, written by Chandler, are simply lame. The dialogues ring artificial and false, there is no chemistry between Philip and Linda - even the obvious sexual attraction seems fake and forced - and the whole premise of the troubled marriage is implausible almost to the point of being ridiculous. Why try to resuscitate something that has so beautifully and memorably died in The Long Good-Bye? Would publishers' greed have to do anything with this? Nah.
I am not a fan of Mr. Chandler's work in general and have always been astonished by his stellar literary reputation, but I used to love his The Long Goodbye and many, many years ago it would have been on my five-star list. One of these days I will re-read the novel to check how much my sentiment has changed. Anyway, the beginning of Poodle Springs is so awkward and written so badly that it seems hardly possible to have been written by the author of The Long Goodbye. Everything good in this book - regrettably not much - is Mr. Parker's contribution.
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