Raymond Chandler, The Annotated Big Sleep (orig. 1939), Eds. Owen Hill, Pamela Jackson & Anthony Rizzuto, Vintage  Quite how the editors could get this so wrong is hard to compass. An early galley, but even one last ferocious pass might not be enough. The editors should be encouraged to take a blue pencil to cross out the long and pretentious Foreward and Introduction. There are photographs, and long cliched references to other writers from Poe on. The first note, from Poe onwards, includes Conan Doyle, Simenon, Himes and more. The annotations attempt to be not just an analysis of the book but a century of the history of crime fiction. The second note is worse. It’s true that this is a bad proof at that. It is over-written, in self-aggrandizing prose that requires more attention to its structures. There are many editions of The Big Sleep, but none of them make such a hash of a good book. Poor Vintage! I rate The Big Sleep  5 stars but the annotations 2.

Meanwhile, Lawrence Osborne has written Only to Sleep, ‘a Philip Marlowe Thriller’, an exceptionally good use of ‘franchise’, here published by Hogarth/Vintage (2018). Set in 1988, the 72-year-old Marlowe, happy in retirement, finds himself investigating one Donald Zinn, drowned off his yacht, or perhaps not. He follows the widow, and the plot thickens. Stylish writing does the book no harm. Franchises don’t always work, and it is a careful reader who realises what’s going on. Osborne’s novel is a new novel, nothing like the painting by numbers school. He isn’t the first, and more pastiches have been coming for some time, such as The Black Eyed Blonde, John Banville’s 2014 franchise novel, a competent pastiche of Chandler by Banville’s pseudonymous Benjamin Black.

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