Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe: A Centennial Celebration by Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe was one of the characters who set the style for today's hard-boiled detective fiction.

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Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe: A Centennial Celebration by Raymond Chandler


  • Paperback: 416 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.12 x 9.23 x 6.18
  • Publisher: I Books; (October 1999)
  • ISBN: 0671038907

    Penzler Pick, January 2000: Originally published a decade ago and now expanded, this book is a homage to the greatest detective story writer of the 20th century, an Anglo-American who took Los Angeles, his adopted home, off the road maps and into the land of legend. For Raymond Chandler, who died in 1959, his literary descendants will do just about anything, and that includes contributing to an anthology honoring him. Thus, in here we find the likes of Sara Paretsky, Robert Crais, Loren D. Estleman, Jonathan Valin, Robert Campbell, Eric Van Lustbader, Simon Brett, Julie Smith, Jeremiah Healy, Roger L. Simon, James Grady, and numerous others creating stories in the style of Chandler and in the voice of Marlowe. But, as editor Byron Preiss remarks, "The contributors of this book are here to honor Chandler, not to steal from him."

    He also says, "Many would not be the writers they are had not Chandler followed Hammett and Cain down the back alley of fiction into the realm of art." That's certainly a succinctly expressive summation. Moreover, today the idea of the "mean streets" that Chandler wished the best heroes to traverse is one that has, perhaps more than ever before, seized the imagination of the public when it comes to popular entertainment. What's old is new again, as they say, and in this case that means noir.

    In an introduction by Robert B. Parker--who himself finished the incomplete Chandler novel Poodle Springs (1990)--we learn the essentials of Chandler's life (the British public school education, the wife who was 18 years older than he, etc.). But in the stories essayed here we get the effects of an imagined world that has become an entire universe.

    Among the many included are tales of the Thelma Todd murder scandal by Max Allan Collins; of Dr. Seuss's missing watercolors by Robert L. Simon; of a pro wrestler called The Crusher by Jonathan Valin; and of the ancient jeweled skull that was the inspiration for Hammett's Maltese Falcon by Dick Lochte.

    Two new stories, not in the earlier edition of this volume, are by Simon, creator of Moses Wine, and J. Madison Davis, the author of Red Knight and White Rook and president of the North American Association of International Crime Writers.

    Finally, there is an afterword by Chandler scholar and biographer Frank McShane. And, yes, the real Raymond Chandler is here too, represented by the story "The Pencil," in which that particular writing instrument turns out to be one gift you never want to receive. This book is not quite the real thing; it can't be. But it's as close as you could hope to find. --Otto Penzler

    Reader Reviews
    Collection of Chandler pastiches is uneven, January 29, 2003 Reviewer: David W. Nicholas from Glendale, CA USA Raymond Chandler and Philip Marlowe are the beginning of modern detective fiction, along with Hammett and Spade. Chandler was a preeminent stylist who wrote his way into American letters by helping to create a genre, the private eye novel. He cut his teeth writing short stories for pulps in the twenties and thirties, so it's appropriate that this collection highlights short stories. The stories were written by contemporary authors; the idea was to have them write stories with Marlowe as the main character, covering the period in which Marlowe figured in short stories that Chandler wrote. There is one story per year, with several on the back end of the collection that don't carry an exact date, and one story ("The Pencil") written by Chandler himself, late in life, to round things out. The collection is, of course, uneven. Most of the writers more or less produce Chandler-like prose and characters, but some of the plots are distinctly unlike the great one. The collection starts off on the right foot with a Max Allan Collins story which is very good, and in the Collins mold. It's a historical mystery revolving around a thin pastiche of an old Hollywood mystery: who killed actress Thelma Todd? The rest of the stories are written by such leading lights as Robert Crais, Sara Paretsky, and Loren D. Estleman. They're rounded out by stories from such also-rans and where-are-they-nows as Benjamin Schutz, Francis Nevins Jr., Jonathan Valin, and Jeremiah Healy. I don't want to give the impression that I don't like any of the latter collection of writers (I particularly enjoyed Schutz), but they can hardly be called contemporaries, given that they haven't written in years. I did enjoy the collection of stories, and I enjoyed the premise of the collection itself. I found the stories uneven. Some of them are very good, but some are overly cute. Two feature Chandler as a character, interacting with Marlowe. In one of those, he also butts heads with Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss), who's only there, apparently, because he's Dr. Seuss. It's all a bit much. However, I overall enjoyed the collection, and would recommend it.

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