Writing in the Tradition of Chandler

Can’t get enough of Raymond Chandler’s L.A.? His biographer Judith Freeman names titles that keep the mood—and the murder—going.

four books inspired by the works of author raymond chandler

"Poodle Springs" Raymond Chandler and Robert B. Parker

POODLE SPRINGS (1989)

Raymond Chandler and Robert B. Parker
The first Marlowe novel commissioned by Chandler’s estate gets the rhythm of his writing. Parker does his best to make a romantic, newly married Marlowe credible. “I’m in love with my wife,” the detective says of the überwealthy Linda Loring, while insisting that he must remain his “own man.” By the novel’s end, there’s divorce talk. Where Chandler himself might have been going with the story he started shortly before he died we’ll never know, but I think he knew Linda wasn’t a keeper.

THE BLACK-EYED BLONDE (2014)

Benjamin Black
Black’s attempt to resurrect Marlowe makes cringeworthy missteps. You can’t write a Marlowe novel if you don’t know Los Angeles, even if your friend Candice Bergen, thanked in the acknowledgments, offers up some tips. All the nasty, unnecessary racial, homophobic, and gender slurs pop out in an ugly way. Black makes Marlowe horny, ready to make a pass at a “big-jawed slouchy brunette with wide hips and a heavy bust” by taking her to “some shady bar.” Uh, I don’t think so.

"Only to Sleep" Lawrence Osborne

ONLY TO SLEEP (2018)

Lawrence Osborne
Osborne reimagines Marlowe as a 72-year-old expat living out his old age in a house north of Ensenada, in Baja California. “I never thought retirement would be so sad,” he says. Marlowe takes on an insurance fraud case, chasing a scammer couple around Mexico, ruminating on his lost potency. “You know, I was married once,” he says, “but the condition doesn’t agree with me. It makes me unstable.” Only to Sleep’s Marlowe never really seems like Marlowe, but Osborne has still produced a fine simulacrum of a Chandler novel.

"A Red Death" Walter Mosley

THE EASY RAWLINS NOVELS (1990–)

Walter Mosley
Mosley is the natural heir, working his own vein but heavily influenced by Chandler. Not only does Mosley know Los Angeles the way Chandler knew it, but he also gets the class thing right and uses it much as Chandler did, to propel plots that cross all parts of the city, high and low.

Read more from Alta‘s Fall 2020 Noir Special Section.

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