Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Poodle Springs

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Poodle Springs (Putnam, 1989).

When I reread all of Chandler a couple of years ago, I didn't include Poodle Springs in the stack. This was the novel he left really unfinished - seriously, just four chapters - and, about thirty years later, his estate hired Robert B. Parker to complete. Since, three years ago, I didn't know anything about Parker, I passed on it. Now that I'm working my way through all of Parker's books, it became time to read it.

What's really weird, though, is that, having read it, I'm damned if I can remember what it was about it that prompted me to give it a slot in my silly book review blog. I know that I enjoyed it, but, heck, I only finished it about ten days ago. It just so happens that these have been a really incredibly busy and wild ten days in my life, but... the content of this book just slipped away.

What I do remember most clearly is the way that Parker comes back again and again to Marlowe having an ongoing argument with his incredibly rich wife. She doesn't understand why he still needs to work as a detective. It's embarrassing her high-society friends in the desert community of Poodle Springs. He keeps telling her that he wouldn't be true to himself if he stopped. This argument happens about four times, so it's kind of driven home. Seems to me that they should have had this conversation before they got married.

Anyway, as a Chandler pastiche goes, it's really not bad, even if the details eluded me so much that I needed to give it another pass to refresh my memory. Parker did a really good job in recreating the particular structure and style of Chandler, and filling a simple situation into a convoluted, twisting narrative full of family secrets and people who don't admit to Marlowe that they know other, important characters. People end up dead who should have never died, and Marlowe ends up behind bars for being in the wrong place with an unbelievable story. Parker, who clearly had lots of practice with his character Spenser's smart mouth, gives Marlowe an appropriately insolent tone.

It never really stops being fanfic, because Marlowe will never be anybody's character but Chandler's. That didn't stop Parker from writing a second Marlowe novel, Perchance to Dream, that I'll read in time. It is not necessary, and not essential, and worthwhile only as a curiosity for readers familiar already with the authors' existing work. It's certainly not an entry point, anyway.

It did, on the other hand, prompt me to pull all of my Chandler novels off the shelf and back into rotation. The Big Sleep's just magnificent, isn't it?

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