Saturday 30 August 2014

The Black-Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black

Reviewer: Barbara Scott Emmett, author of The Land Beyond Goodbye, Don’t Look Down and Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion. (

What We Thought: The Black-Eyed Blonde is the follow up to Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, except it isn’t by Chandler. It’s by Benjamin Black who is, of course, John Banville by another name. Writing in the style of such a cult writer can’t have been easy, even for Booker prizewinner Banville. Chandler is a hard act to follow and his devotees are difficult to please. I know, because I’m married to one.

So when I say this book is a success, you can believe me. If it hadn’t been a reasonable pastiche my husband would have abandoned it halfway through. When I came to read it myself, I had my doubts at first. Could Black/Banville capture the wry humour, the sardonic one-liners, the world-weary essential goodness of Philip Marlowe? Well, he’s done a pretty good job of it.

It’s probably best to have read The Long Goodbye before approaching this book – but then, who would read a ‘new’ Chandler without having read the originals? The Black-Eyed Blonde features many of Marlowe’s previous sparring partners – villain Mendy Menendez, police officer pals Bernie Ohls and Joe Green. The plot is reminiscent of The Long Goodbye but I won’t say too much about it for fear of giving the game away.

There’s a femme fatale of course, the black-eyed blonde herself, who Marlowe falls for; there’s suspicious death in the form of a hit and run, there are vicious Mexicans and high-powered wealthy men who aren’t as squeaky clean as they could be. All the elements are there. It’ll never actually be Chandler, but in the absence of a discovery of a long lost manuscript, this will certainly fill the gap.

You'll enjoy this if you like: Raymond Chandler and other noir detective fiction.

Avoid if you dislike: Reports of gruesome deaths; violence against women (and men).

Ideal accompaniments: A bottle of bourbon hidden in a desk drawer.

Crime, Noir.

Available from Amazon.

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