Nobody could accuse Benjamin Black of lacking chutzpah. After controversially stating that he spent far more time on his literary novels (under his real name, John Banville) than on his crime fiction, he now takes on the mantle of the greatest American hard-boiled writer, serving up a new adventure for Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe. Will the legions of Chandlerians consider this a welcome comeback for their favourite LA private eye — or an act of hubris? Utilising an unused title by Chandler himself, Black takes us to 1950s LA with Marlowe asked by a beautiful blonde in haute couture to find her ex-lover. Marlowe is soon up against Bay City society, finding that the well-heeled can be utterly ruthless in protecting their secrets. So — can Black pull off the literary ventriloquism required? Devotees may be divided, but this is a highly entertaining simulacra of the Dulwich-educated Master’s style, with a healthy helping of the latter’s sardonic wit. It isn’t Chandler, but then who — apart from Chandler — is?
The Black-Eyed Blonde, by Benjamin Black, Mantle, RRP £16.99, 291 pages