The Black-Eyed Blonde: A Philip Marlowe Novel (Philip Marlowe Series)

by Benjamin Black

Hardcover, 2014




Henry Holt and Co. (2014), Edition: First Edition, 304 pages


"Raymond Chandler's incomparable private eye is back, pulled by a seductive young heiress into the most difficult and dangerous case of his career"It was one of those summer Tuesday afternoons when you begin to wonder if the earth has stopped revolving. The telephone on my desk had the look of something that knows it's being watched. Traffic trickled by in the street below, and there were a few pedestrians, too, men in hats going nowhere."So begins The Black-Eyed Blonde, a new novel featuring Philip Marlowe--yes, that Philip Marlowe. Channeling Raymond Chandler, Benjamin Black has brought Marlowe back to life for a new adventure on the mean streets of Bay City, California. It is the early 1950s, Marlowe is as restless and lonely as ever, and business is a little slow. Then a new client is shown in: young, beautiful, and expensively dressed, she wants Marlowe to find her former lover, a man named Nico Peterson. Marlowe sets off on his search, but almost immediately discovers that Peterson's disappearance is merely the first in a series of bewildering events. Soon he is tangling with one of Bay City's richest families and developing a singular appreciation for how far they will go to protect their fortune.Only Benjamin Black, a modern master of the genre, could write a new Philip Marlowe novel that has all the panache and charm of the originals while delivering a story that is as sharp and fresh as today's best crime fiction"--… (more)

Media reviews

At the moment, he hasn’t decided whether to do this again. There are reasons for readers to hope he will, but they’re strictly selfish. Mr. Black has already hit a bull’s-eye. He doesn’t have to aim for another.

User reviews

LibraryThing member freelancer_frank
This is a book about homage and betrayal. Black (Banville) captures Chandler's voice so well that it is easy to forget the book is modern. He wisely avoids the more baroque metaphors in favor of a focus on character and nuance that really nails Marlowe's dry empirical world view. The story is entertaining it its own right, the plot enrapturing and the denouement entirely satisfying - with hints at Scott Fitzgerald thrown in for good measure. There are many lines that sing like spiders on angel food cake. Great fun, memorable and enlightening.… (more)
LibraryThing member AdonisGuilfoyle
Hmm. Two points about sequels to classic novels, whether sanctioned or not, from my personal and rather hypocritical experiences (I can't stop reading them!) One, authors with distinctive narrative voices (and devoted fanbases) should really be avoided, by everyone. Austen, Chandler, Wodehouse - these authors will never be bettered, and rarely equalled, especially by 'honouring' them with a sequel. Two, if imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, at least try and bring something new to the party! Mimicking style is one thing, but duplicating the plot is quite another.

I re-read The Long Goodbye before braving Benjamin Black's sequel, but I think relying on a vague memory would have been wiser. Black - Irish writer John Banville - has a fair crack at Chandler, bar the occasional anachronism/Britishism and flowery metaphor. What bothered me more, ironically, was how close he stuck to the original text. I suspect he read synopses of the first five Marlowe novels, before cribbing the ever-living daylights out of The Long Goodbye. The plot of The Black-Eyed Blonde is virtually identical, down to actually borrowing characters from the source material. I'm just not sure what the point of the whole exercise was - not providing Chandler's readers with a new story, that's for sure. When Marlowe kisses said blonde with dark eyes (I suspect Chandler's title would have had a more violent connotation), the clinch is almost Chandler word for word ('She didn't resist, but she didn't respond either'). The references and in-jokes are easy to spot, but Black is seemingly unable to maintain Marlowe's voice without borrowing phrases from Chandler. As one character remarks to photocopy-Phil, 'You obviously haven't put your heart into it so far'.

Successful spin-offs either focus on a new story while honouring the spirit of the original, or style the whole sequel as a fondly penned pastiche. Black is sort of a literary J.J. Abrams, mistaking cut and paste for homage. Don't read the two novels back to back.
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LibraryThing member DrLed
Synopsis: Philip Marlow, a hard-boiled detective with a good heart and no end of hard luck, takes on a missing person case from a beautiful, rich, blond. Of course, she hasn't told him 'everything'. This omission leads Marlow to drug smugglers, murders and wackos, and also a few police acquaintances who would just as soon he left them alone.
Review: As a fan of Chandler and the noir genre, I found Black's writing to hold up quite well. The settings engendered tension, dread and suspicion, wrapped in a fog of cigarette smoke and booze. The characters echoed Chandler's crew in their grittiness, weaknesses, and occasional flickers of good. Reading this book is time well spend.
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LibraryThing member Ronrose1
Philip Marlowe, private eye, the mean streets of L. A., they don't write them like that any more, or perhaps they do. At least this one comes pretty close. The author is good at capturing the style, the setup, and the recreating the types of characters that Raymond Chandler wrote about so effectively. While no one can completely resurrect a legend, this book definitely pays tribute to one of the best. Philip Marlowe is the quintessential private eye of the 1940's. Scraping by on a gumshoe's budget, he smokes too much, drinks too much, and has been known to become distracted by the sight of a pair of sexy legs. When Clare Cavendish, a white hot blonde with black eyes, slinks into his office, Marlowe knows he will take the case whatever it involves. Clare wants him to find a man. A man it turns out who should be dead, but is still walking around. The trail is going to be strewn with dead bodies and a lot of pain and bruises for Marlowe. If he finds the dead man walking, perhaps he can find the real reason Clare wants him found. If we can't have the original Marlowe, this will certainly do to fill the bill. Book provided for review by Amazon Vine.… (more)
LibraryThing member belgrade18
Wow- what a terrific read. Written in the voice of Raymond Chandler, it is a new Philip Marlow mystery novel. I'll be honest, I have always found Raymond Chandler to be overrated by a longshot, and frankly Benjamin Black (who is actually John Banville), has managed to take all the best parts of Chandler's style and drop a lot of the dross, like the characters needing to fix a drink every two paragraphs and some other literary fillers. The writing style mirrors Chandler's with great skill- in fact he carries a tune so much better and more smoothly than Chandler that I don't know if I can go back to the original. It's also not as offensive as Chandler- not nearly the misogyny, racism and homophobia. Some people may find this horribly PC of me, but it shows that you don't need that junk to be a good writer in this genre. At the same time, the character sketches are priceless: "Bernie wore the regulation suit of dark blue flannel, no hat, and those black shoes they must make specially for cops, as broad as boats and with rim of sole about half an inch wide all around. He makes lots of noise, Bernie, and he has no great love for me, but all the same he's a straight up fellow, the kind you'd be lucky to have beside you when a scrap breaks out ..."

I can't recommend this novel enough if you like mysteries (you'll suddenly realize how mediocre the writing is is most of them), especially of the noir genre. There are also some great LA scenes, although Marlow and most of the characters seem to go about their business without much appreciation or interest in what makes it such a fascinating city. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member Magus_Manders
Raymond Chandler is one of the big-three authors in the field of hard-boiled detective fiction, the others being the genre's progenitor, Dashiell Hammett, and whomever else you happen to be talking about at the moment. I personal feel his novel The Long Goodbye is one of the greatest American novels of the 20th Century, and the high point in a disappointingly small body of work. His main protagonist, Philip Marlowe, is one of the most charming, complex, and put-upon of all the era's detectives, and a good friend to me. In a way, Benjamin Black's Chandler pastiche The Black-Eyed Blonde is a welcome thing.

Right from the title, you can see that Black is going out of his way to emulate all the flair of Chanlder's noir sensibilities. Indeed, the opening paragraph reads almost like a parody of a Philip Marlowe book. This could be seen as disingenuous, but you really can't tell this type of story without the sort of meandering, overblown, yet somehow homey prose that Chandler reveled in. Our hapless protagonist is literally waiting in his office for the black-eyed blonde to walk in. The plot takes place shortly after the end of The Long Goodbye, and this may be one of the more trying flaws. There's a number of very obvious references to previous Marlowe stories than Chandler might have included. I'm all for continuity, but they pop up with a frequency that feels more like fan service than anything that adds to the story. The plot develops in a convoluted, round-a-bout fashion, which is totally appropriate for the milieu; Chandler could write metaphors like a poet, but couldn't plot his way out of a paper bag, and I think this helps build the atmosphere of his stories. Marlowe himself comments that things tend to just happen around him, and cases resolve themselves or don't regardless of his best efforts. Those who are familiar with the rest of Chandler's novels will totally see what Black is trying to do, setting up Marlowe for the previously non-sequiter events that would have occurred in Chandler's last book, had he lived to finish it.

Black captures the dry humor of Marlowe's inner-monologue flawlessly, though the whole ordeal is more self-aware and more cynical than what Chandler would have written. Both the sex and violence feels more explicit, which I imagine is a bit of modern crime-fiction sensibilities bleeding in onto this throwback. Indeed, The Black-Eyed Blonde is very much a throwback; a nostalgic return to a different type of crime story. Philip Marlowe is a man with no extraordinary intelligence or ability. He's just a working stiff with real heart who can't seem to find a break, which is exactly why we seem to like him so much. Black must like him too, because there's a lot of love for Chandler and his poetic, hard-boiled prose in these pages. I'm not sure whether he's playing with the tropes, or just letting them happen the way we expect, but in all we have a comfortable, engaging, and entertaining story that gives a bit more life to an old friend.
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LibraryThing member mrmapcase
A modern retelling of a classic character. Black tells an enchanting tale of Phillip Marlowe the hard-boiled detective drawn into a web of dubious dealings, with admirable aplomb. A surefire way to relive the past.

Free review copy.
LibraryThing member ssimon2000
I received an advanced copy of this book in the LibraryThing Early Reviews program in exchange for an honest review.
This was a very entertaining read, like being transported back into an old Humphrey Bogart film noir movie, complete with mysterious dames and hidden agendas galore. As I was reading, I couldn't help but imagine the scenes in black and white, too.
Benjamin Black (pen name of John Banville) has captured the feel perfectly of the old Raymond Chandler pulps, bringing Philip Marlowe back to life in 1950s Los Angeles.
A thoroughly enjoyable read!
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LibraryThing member SChant
I wanted to like this. Banville really tried hard to build a Chandleresque atmosphere, but it just didn't have the spark of the originals. Dropping in names and plotlines from Chandler's actual work just jarred.
LibraryThing member ozzer
With the "Black-eyed Blond"--a title culled from a list of possible future Phillip Marlowe novels kept by Raymond Chandler--Benjamin Black (aka, John Banville) has managed to successfully conger up the famous detective in all his intelligent, humorous, jaded and deeply flawed glory. This wonderful novel succeeds on several levels. The plot tells a good story with enough twists and turns to satisfy any reader of crime fiction and a finish that is totally satisfying. Black evokes the setting of 50's California in a masterful and understated way with clever descriptions of the cars, clothes, weather and especially all the booze and cigarettes. He adheres faithfully to the noir genre: the cops are grumpy and a little dull-witted, the dames are deadly and deceptive and the bad guys are really bad. The best part of the novel, however, is Phillip Marlowe's pitch perfect narration, which is filled with humorous asides, unanswered queries, and especially delightful metaphors. This is a special novel that should not be missed by anyone who enjoys crime fiction, the noir genre, and especially Raymond Chandler. One only hopes that Banville follows this up by exploring one or more of the other potential titles on Chandler's list: "The Diary of a Loud Check Suit", "The Man with the Shredded Ear", or "Stop Screaming-It's Me".… (more)
LibraryThing member DougJ110
Benjamin Black, (a pen name for John Banville), writes in the style of Raymond Chandler, (better than Chandler, in my opinion), featuring Chandler's protagonist, detective Phillip Marlowe.
If you liked the repartee of Bogie and Bacall, in "The Big Sleep," you'll like this.
LibraryThing member bfolds
I have been a fan of John Banville's B. Black/Quirk series, so was excited to see what he'd bring to this genre. Sorry to say that I didn't find that it had anything new to say beyond what Chandler already contributed; it read to me like the script for a B-movie. Not bad, but not anything I'd recommend for fans of this writer's previous work.… (more)
LibraryThing member Eoin
Another enjoyable and well-made genre piece from an author who seems to be truly enjoying himself. If you were wishing that someone would write more Raymond Chandler, this is likely to be your best bet. Funnier and less richly phrased than the Quirke novels, Black/Banville is, paradoxically, showing his range via restriction. Extra points for the cover art and the Thanks section. Worth it for the dialog.… (more)
LibraryThing member bogopea
Good old fashioned murder mystery featuring Phillip Marlowe. Benjamin Black brought Marlowe back to life, channeling Raymond Chandler.
LibraryThing member ritaer
Put this back on the shelf and go read a real Chandler. Another failed attempt to capture Philip Marlowe.
LibraryThing member PirateJenny
A LibraryThing early reviewer win.
John Banville writing as Benjamin Black writing as Raymond Chandler. Got it?
It's been a good twenty-five years since I read Chandler, but to my recollection, Black pretty much nailed it. And if you have only seen movies based on Chandler, well it's easy enough to hear the lines coming out of Bogie's mouth.
So you've got this guy, Nico Peterson, who's dead. Only maybe not really. Marlowe gets hired because Nico's girlfriend, Claire Cavendish, saw him in San Francisco. After he died. Claire is heir to a major perfume empire and moves in the type of high class circles that make Marlowe uncomfortable but that he seems to find himself tangled up with. Add his cop buddies/nemeses, a mob boss, and a club for the movers and shakers and it really feels like what I recall vintage Marlowe to be.
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LibraryThing member gbelik
An enjoyable mystery which captures Raymond Chandler's style quite well. It made me want to go back and read some of the real thing.
LibraryThing member ritaer
A modern writer tries to recreate Philip Marlowe, protagonist of Raymond Chandler's classic novels. Somewhat successful, though I do not understand the impulse to pour gimlets down the poor man's throat. It is my opinion that once Terry Lennox walked out his office door Marlowe would never have tasted another gimlet--he was over Terry and would have been over the drink he only had with Terry. In any case, this attempt at reviving Marlowe seems more successful to me that that of the late Robert Parker. But why does Marlowe never do the obvious thing and look for Nico where was last seen alive. Did Black feel unequal to moving Marlowe to unfamiliar territory? A fairly decent mystery, but, alas, not Chandler.… (more)
LibraryThing member Kathy89
I enjoyed this book. Very noirish. The black-eyed blonde, Claire Cavendish, walks into Marlowe's office and wants him to find a missing lover for her. Of course, he knows she's not being truthful but he's interested. Nico is supposed to be dead but she caught a glimpse of him on the street in San Francisco while driving by. Thugs starting calling on Marlowe looking for Nico's missing suitcase and that's what everyone is interested in getting back.… (more)
LibraryThing member millihelen
True to character, Philip Marlowe meets an elegant wealthy woman, solves a mystery, and then goes back home to his chess games and fried eggs. This book is a pleasure to read. Black mimics the Chandler rhythms and twists of wit beautifully. The descriptions of the California landscape--especially the redwoods by Marlowe's house--are perfect. The plot was a little less engaging. It was too circular and complicated. The solution brought groans from me, rather than the satisfaction of a puzzle solved. One of my favorite lines: "I was thinking of this and that. This being Clare Cavendish, and that being Clare Cavendish too."… (more)
LibraryThing member unclebob53703
A decent pastiche of Chandler, though the detective seems to be something of a dope. Not everything I was hoping it would be.
LibraryThing member SmithfieldJones
Was glad to see a "good" writer tackle Philip Marlowe and have to admit, Benjamin Black (John Banville) is a great choice--I don't think this Marlowe has quit the edge Chandler gave him, but I could be wrong. Decided to read an original just "because" but that does't mean I didn't enjoy this read.
LibraryThing member camharlow2
If you have enjoyed Raymond Chandler’s novels featuring Philip Marlowe, you are in for a treat with this book, as Benjamin Black captures his dialogue, world-weary feelings and the atmosphere of early 1950s Los Angeles in this brilliant recreation. Using a title that Chandler had noted as a possible novel, Black has brought Marlowe to life and linked him to characters and plots that appeared in previous Chandler novels. The whole package makes for a fully charged mystery as Clare Cavendish, the blonde of the title, hires Marlowe to trace her former boyfriend. The twists and turns of the ensuing investigation make this a very worthy and exciting success at Philip Marlowe’s return.… (more)
LibraryThing member DPLyle
Classic Marlowe

Funny, witty, well crafted mystery. Great addition to the long history of Philip Marlowe stories.

DP Lyle, award-winning author of the Samantha Cody and Dub Walker thriller series


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