Friday, August 10, 2012

Leave Philip Marlowe Alone

John Banville’s Terrible Idea to Write a New Novel on Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe

The acclaimed Irish novelist John Banville will write a new novel based on Raymond Chandler’s iconic private eye Philip Marlowe. Malcolm Jones on why this is a terrible idea.

His publisher announced this week that Irish author John Banville will try to bring Raymond Chandler’s fictional detective Philip Marlowe back from the grave. This is a terrible idea.

You can see why someone thought otherwise.Banville is a Man Booker prize–winning novelist who already moonlights as a mystery novelist under the pseudonym Benjamin Black.

Black’s mysteries are noirish affairs set in '50s Dublin, where everyone lives guilt-drenched, un-fun lives under the bullying thumb of the Catholic Church. His protagonist, Quirk, is a pathologist who occasionally gets roped into crime solving (roughly as often as Black needs to write another book) and who otherwise lives a lonely life, alienated from society in general and just about everyone in particular.

There are rhymes and echoes here. Marlowe was a loner, a private eye in a one-man operation in Los Angeles during the '30s, '40s, and '50s. Chandler, like Banville (and Black to a lesser extent) was a stylist, self-aware and so assured that he was his own best parodist: “She jerked away from me like a startled fawn might, if I had a startled fawn and it jerked away from me.”

No, even I agree that his vita makes Banville look like the man for the job. If only there were a job. But literary tomb-robbing is no fit occupation for anyone, talented or not. It’s not unethical. It’s just that no good ever comes of it.

for the rest go here:


Charles R. Rutledge said...

I'm with you, sir.

Peter L. Winkler said...

Agree with Jones. Read one of Parker's ersatz Marlowe novels. Meh. Chandler's inimitable. Won't read Banville's.

Mathew Paust said...

Depends, I suppose, on if the Banville/Black book is made into a movie. If so, if could be one of those movie-sells-book phenomena that could turn a new generation of readers onto Chandler. Sort of the way the Bond franchise revived. I'll wait for the movie - on Netflix.

Anonymous said...

Amen. No offense to Philip Marlowe, but Raymond Chandler is the real star of those books. It'd be like doing a Blues Brothers sequel without belushi. oh wait...