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Showing 1-10 of 172 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 269 reviews
on March 8, 2014
Early on, I felt like I might as well just reread "The Big Sleep." But the rave review in yesterday's New York Times encouraged me to stick with it. For Chandler fans like me, it's a good read. All the elements are there, including the throwaway reflections on the nature of life laden with both world weary accuracy and surprising freshness. In an age of neo-noir like "House of Cards," it's nice to dip into the real thing, where the protagonist, however hard boiled and cynical he may be, is basically a good man fighting the good fights, losing more than a few, and winning bittersweet victories that never come without a connected loss, and seem to be little more than temporary advances in a lonely battle against overwhelming odds that will never be won. I could see Bogart, Greenstreet, Lauren Bacall, and just about everyone else, and I hope someone will make a film of it. It didn't take long to get through it, and it was formulaic. But I liked it..
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on November 28, 2016
5-Stars—For depth of character insights—both by Marlowe and about him and others. ADVICE: Read AFTER The Long Goodbye by Chandler because there are subtle allusions to it throughout and more directly at the end. I did so by accident and recognized the allusion, but “through a glass darkly” because I did not know to read them sequentially within a short time period.

Reviewing the ratings surprised me by the mediocre average. Perhaps some readers expected to exactly read Chandler. Sometimes I, too, object to "spin offs." (Sorry for that TV-Movie term.)

I enjoyed, as stated above, the depth of character insights and will cite a few keeping in mind to not include spoilers.
Chapter 21:
>>>>"I think she really had lost the thread. It crossed my mind that maybe she didn't know any more than I did, that maybe her hiring me . . . really had no connection with the rest of the stuff that followed. It was possible, after all. Life is far more messy and disconnected than we let ourselves admit. Wanting things to make sene and be nice an orderly, we keep making up plots and forcing them on the way things really are. It's one of our weaknesses, but we cling to it for dear life, since witout it there'd be no life at all, dear or otherwise."
Chapter 21:
"It was true: she did seem to be thinking of someone else, the same someone she had been thinking of that night in her bedroom, though I didn't know how I had guessed it. The mind has doors that it insists on leaning against and keeping firmly shut, until a day comes when what's outside can be resisted no longer, and the hinges give way and the thing bursts open and all kinds of stuff comes rumbling in." To use a cliche: Denial is NOT a river in Africa.
Chapter 22:
"I had only to look at [the man he had been hired to find] to see those mean eyes and hear his whining tone, to know she wouldn't have touched him with her ebony cigarette holder. No, there was someone else, and now I knew who it was. I'd known for some time, I suppose, but you can know something and at the same time not know it. It's one of the things that help us put up with our lot in life and not go crazy."
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It is no secret that “Benjamin Black,” author of nine noir crime novels, is the pen name used by highly esteemed Irish author John Banville for the crime novels he writes in tandem with the prize-winning literary novels that he writes under his own name. The Black-Eyed Blonde, his ninth noir mystery, is his first novel written from the point of view of Philip Marlowe, the popular hard-boiled detective featured in six novels and a series of short stories by one of the earliest noir novelists, Raymond Chandler, between 1939 and 1958. Hard-drinking and often down-on-his luck, detective Philip Marlowe is shown as a loner who says what he thinks, a man with few friends and no long-term love in his life.

As The Black-Eyed Blonde opens, Marlow is looking out the window of his office, near the corner of Cahuenga and Hollywood. In straight-forward and smart prose he establishes the setting and the mood, noting that “it was one of those Tuesday afternoons in summer when you wonder if the earth has stopped revolving. The telephone on my desk had the air of something that knows it’s being watched.” The loneliness and the bleak setting, conveyed through offbeat observations by Philip Marlowe, change briefly when Marlowe gets a surprise visit from a beautiful woman who wants to hire him. The “black-eyed blonde,” Mrs. Clare Cavendish, wants Marlowe to find Nico Peterson, a movie agent who disappeared mysteriously two months ago.

As the novel develops, Marlowe becomes better acquainted with Clare Cavendish, the daughter of a wealthy perfume designer. When Clare tells Marlowe that she saw Peterson a week ago but that she was also present when he was “killed” months earlier, Marlowe realizes that something is terribly wrong. He goes to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office to view scenes of Peterson’s death, then meets with a friendly cop to discuss the case for more information. He is concerned because everyone seems to know he is working on the case, and he suspects he is being watched.

However “pulpy” Black’s writing may be, in keeping with that of Chandler, it certainly ranks with the best of pulpy, involving the reader and immediately setting up Marlowe’s latest adventure without using obvious clichés. At the halfway point, the novel changes from being a lightweight period mystery, however well written and however much fun, to much darker fare. The mood of the first love scene in the novel changes without warning when Marlowe learns that a body has been discovered at the Encino Reservoir. Overlaps occur among the different subplots, and before long, Marlowe himself is in danger. The investigation broadens into drug running, the dangerous backgrounds of some characters, and a suicide. The dark twist at the end of the novel may surprise even sophisticated fans of noir. Critics and most fans of Raymond Chandler have celebrated the closeness of Black’s version of Marlowe to that of the original, though the novel’s cold aloofness may put off some readers.
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on March 23, 2014
As a fan of both Banville and Black, I was expecting something special. Unfortunately Black simply fails to capture LA as an aspect of the story. After the first two chapters I actually thought that he was writing a parody. Both Banville and Black capture a mood of place with thumbnail sketches of 50s Dublin; Irish small towns; Italian small towns; and medieval continental cities. In trying to pull the same trick off for Los Angeles he simply makes his unfamiliarity abundantly clear. Setting Candice Bergen up to take part of the blame for this superficiality is an unusual step.
The story reads like a series of character sketches that never quite integrate. Both Banville's Quirke and Black's Quirke can claim an existence, each in their own context, that eludes the inhabitants of "Blonde".
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on August 23, 2015
I was curious to see if any other reviewers were thrown by the anachronisms peppered throughout this book. seems I am not alone.
This could have been a Really Great book had it not been for these errors.
I have to wonder if the editor was too young to notice/spot them.
More Irish culture was thrown into the background history of Marlowe and other character setup than would have been thrown in by Chandler himself which reveals too much of the author's background. He leans too much on what he knows. He doesn't seem to really know western America of the 1950's. It all feels like cliché, and second hand info. I get the feeling that his references are rooted in what he may have seen in movies. Use of terms like "cancer sticks" and mentioning cigarettes being bad and cancerous was not really a concern in the early 1950's. (Ok to correct me here, but then term "cancer stick" hadn't even entered a our slang until the 1960's.)
This story picks up where the last Marlowe story left off.(The Long Goodbye was published in 1953 and story takes place in 1949-50)
I found myself buying into the illusion of the book until modern day concern and conscious attitude is injected into the mind of Marlowe.
Maybe this would work if we imagined Marlowe alive today and retelling a part of his life from the early 1950's. Then we could understand the anachronisms. But Chandler's Marlowe stories were told as if they just happened and we are in the time period when they took place.
I wasn't thrilled with Marlowe's interaction with the female lead. It was very flawed and Marlowe seems to know it himself. He comes off as a desperate, love-sick teenager who can't believe he just spent the night with a beautiful woman.
His moaning about how beautiful she is and the way he obsesses about their night together seems so out-of-character for this tough guy. The more he reminisces, the more I wish someone would just give him a good smack, a quick shake and tell him to "snap out of it!"
Beside that, I did find the new background and description of Marlowe's home fun.
I thought the action scenes were similar to those found in a Parker "Spenser" novel. (I could imagine Hawk busting in and saving the day.) No spoilers here, but the pool scene was really suspenseful.
Despite these complaints, I do hope this author tries his hand at the Marlowe world again. I just hope he finds a better editor who will spot the elements injected out of time.
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VINE VOICEon May 7, 2014
First Sentence: It was one of those Tuesday afternoons in summer when you wonder if the earth has stopped revolving.

PI Phillip Marlow is hired by the lovely and, apparently, wealthy Claire Cavendish to locate her former lover. Marlow quickly learns the man was killed in a hit-and-run; news it seems Mrs. Cavandish already knew. Yet she claims to have seen him alive in San Francisco. Marlow runs into one unexpected event after another in his search to find out what is really going on.

At the very beginning, the author’s voice makes you smile. Black does try to capture the feel of the Golden Age authors but it just never quite rings true. There are cracks in the veneer. Although Black uses terms that are not politically correct for today, they also weren’t accurate for the period. There were small details that were off—straight skirts weren’t called “pencil” skirts in the 50s. Some of the descriptions in the beginning weren’t bad…”That smile: it was like something she had set a match to a long time ago and then left to smolder on by itself…” but they soon disappeared. It was also painfully clear that this was not written by an American, and certainly not someone who lived and breathed the area as Chandler had done.

Black does capture a bit of Chandler’s dry, ironic voice…””Someone like who?” He seemed to wince; it was probably my grammar.”

The plot’s not bad and there were good surprises, good lines…”The world, when you come down to it, is a scary place…”, but the further one reads, the more it turns from gold, to gold gilt, to brass, to lead, and becomes almost uncomfortable to read.

“The Black-Eyed Blond” might be a decent read for those who’ve not read the classics. However, to those who have, it really doesn’t hold together. Once again, I find myself believing that when an author dies, should their character.

THE BLACK-EYED BLONDE (Mys-Phillip Marlow-Fict. Calif. City (Basically, LA)-1950s) - Poor
Black, Benjamin (aka John Banville) – 1st in series
Henry Holt and Co., 2014
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on September 1, 2014
Benjamin Black has written some excellent mysteries, but this isn't one of them. This is one of those "hard-boiled" detective stories that's practically identical to so many others you've read--like the entire Spenser genre...the gimmick here, of course, is the Chandleresque touch. This could've been thrilling with a better story, but, unfortunately, it was that same old plot of the down-and-out, bored and cynical, LA private eye hired by a stunning and mysterious blonde to find her---fill- in-the-blanks. From there, onward and downward.
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on May 5, 2014
This book is not serious literature per se, especially for Benjamin Black aka John Banville, who writes true literature and knows well what is required to do so. However, within the 'Detective Genre' it earns a 5 star rating. Black has truly captured the 'look and feel' of Raymond Chandler's famous detective. The book reads very quickly and if the reader is entranced by it, the book can be easily read in 2 days. But what makes the book a 5 star detective story is the incredibly wondrous manner in which Black, an Irishman who lives in Dublin, actually captures Chandler's style and Americanism in general.

So many readers have stated that they feel the book picks right up where Chandler left off. This commentary is especially apt. Obviously Mr. Black has a thorough knowledge and understanding of all of Chandler's "Marlowe" novels. Thus, when he applied his own extraordinary talents to this novel he utilized his literary prowess to create a novel which is not at all an 'imitation' but in fact truly the real thing. Yet whether the reader is a Chandler fan or not, this book holds the reader's interest with an intensity that is not often present in most detective novels. Only the best of the best of authors in the genre have the ability to keep the reader turning the pages at the fastest possible rate and yet never miss or skip a word.

Interestingly, Black gives special credit to his personal friend movie actress Candice Bergen who also must be a Chandler fanatic and certainly she is an expert on the geography and venue of Southern California where this book takes place. I do believe that her unique knowledge was quintessentially useful to Black in allowing him to make the book have a truly authentic feel. The public owes her that debt of gratitude for her contribution to Black's creation.

If there is anything negative to say about the book it would be that the characters seemed too coincidentally and non-coincidentally connected. It must have been Black's intention to "finish" the series for Chandler. Yet that is not as far fetched as it seems. Life has a way of bringing people together over and over, even if it is the last thing in the world that the people want, somehow fate, destiny or some other universal force seems to bring people together over and over through the course of their lifetimes. It certainly was apparent in this novel.

Thus, lovers of the "Detective Genre' are highly recommended to this book. It stands up well in virtually every respect. It is the ultimate page turner. And, it gives people familiar with "Marlowe" a sense of completion which was interrupted by Chandler's demise. I would highly recommend this book to readers of virtually any age who find detective novels of interest. The story line is not overly predictable. And the ending is unique and unexpected. I highly recommend it to readers as a wonderful use of spare time and an excellent source of entertainment.
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on June 11, 2014
I certainly hoped for more. I love the Chandler novels. Banville doesn't even come close. The plot is just OK, with a Grace Kelly like girl who is attractively drawn, but this Marlowe is wrong. Banville tries very hard, but he just can't write as well as Chandler did. Who can? There are none of the outrageous similes Chandler loved, and this Marlowe's observations are at once too intelligent and too dumb.

There are a ton of little slips that let you know that try as he may, Banville is still an Irish writer. He hasn't absorbed California the way Chandler did.

And how crass of Stephen King to describe the final plot twist in his back-cover blurb!
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on March 13, 2014
I’ve never been a fan of books written by contemporary writers using legendary characters created by someone long dead — but I’m such a big fan of Benjamin Black’s Quirke series set in Dublin that I couldn’t resist grabbing up his recreation of Raymond Chandler’s legendary detective, Philip Marlowe. The Black-Eyed Blonde is Black’s first effort at rejuvenating the series in an arrangement with Chandler’s estate. Chandler himself wrote the title; it was one of several in a list of possible new books about Marlowe. Black did the rest, and he did it brilliantly.

The Black-Eyed Blonde opens in quintessential Chandler style with Marlowe sitting in his office: “It was one of those Tuesday afternoons in summer when you wonder if the earth has stopped revolving. The telephone on my desk had the air of something that knows it’s being watched.”

Enter the Black-Eyed Blonde. Like so many of Marlowe’s favorite characters, she’s tall, slender, gorgeous, and oh so mysterious. (“That smile: it was like something she had set a match to a long time ago and then left to smolder on by itself.”) Despite his misgivings, Marlowe agrees to take her case. Soon, he finds himself caught up in a situation he doesn’t understand, manhandled by thugs, “slipped a Mickey Finn,” beaten senseless, and threatened with death, all in an effort to stay close to a beautiful woman he doesn’t trust and to learn the truth of the strange case she has hired him to solve.

Contemporary critics call this sort of writing and film “noir” (meaning black, just in case you didn’t know). Perhaps in its day — chiefly, the 40s and 50s — its criminal characters, casual violence, and cynicism came across as realistic. Today, at least to me, it often reads like droll humor. Benjamin Black, masterful writer that he is, has beautifully captured the tone and the language of the genre, which adds another layer of humor: Black is the pseudonym for John Banville, a Booker Award-winning Irish novelist celebrated as one of the premier stylists in the English language today. He writes crime fiction for fun — and, presumably, for profit as well.

Philip Marlowe first appeared in print in 1939 in Raymond Chandler‘s first full-length novel, The Big Sleep. This “hard-boiled detective” was central to Chandler’s subsequent writing in the 1940s and 50s. He invaded movie screens, too, and, along with Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade, became the prototype for legions of later fictional detectives.

Chandler was one of the most successful of the many pulp magazine writers of the 1930s who graduated into writing novels full-time. Chandler, Hammett, James A. Cain, and others, many of them graduates of Black Mask magazine, became fixtures in the field of crime fiction.
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