The first Philip Marlowe novel written by a woman is “The Second Murderer.” Me.
Among all the American crime novels, Raymond Chandler is undoubtedly the most well-known for his invention of Marlowe. Reading Chandler has always been one of my guilty pleasures since it brought 1930s Los Angeles to life for me in chilly, dreary Glasgow.
On the one hand, there is his magnificent writing, his working-class heroes, and his sporadic deep reflections on the human condition.
In addition, he frequently uses racist slurs, portrays gays and people of color in hideous caricatures, and infuses his work with misogyny. To read a story where a woman requires a smack to calm her down takes a strong stomach.
Criminal fiction has always been anti-feminist. That is the primary reason I decided to write it.
In crime fiction, women have historically lacked agency, so when I first started writing, I wanted to try to change that by joining a movement that already included luminaries like Sara Paretsky, Marcia Talley, Mary Wings, and Val McDermid. According to my perception, crime fiction was the new social novel, wrapped in a subgenre that already appeared to be appealing to a sizable readership that was predominately female.
The criticism of commercial fiction is that it is frequently written so hastily that it merely tends to mimic, for better or worse, the social mores of the period it was writte. Although Chandler may have been a sexist, he undoubtedly lived in misogynistic times, and this is reflected in his fiction. These books generally don’t hold up well as time goes on or as attitudes evolve.
Stepping Into Raymond Chandler’s Shoes
This aging-out can occur pretty suddenly, as evidenced by how stale the never-ending propaganda procedurals are today and how tone-deaf the books that conclude with the police lawfully shooting a suspect to death are. After the #MeToo movement and in light of shifting perceptions towards sexual violence and child abuse, the flood of books featuring women with flawed memories cannot be interpreted in the same manner. Overnight, the resilient trope of yesterday becomes utterly unpleasant and even harmful.
But, this same capacity to reflect a period, which may jeopardize a book’s lifespan, also offers a significant benefit to a commercial writer:
the opportunity to alter how society speaks about a moment as a whole and become a significant force for social change. Even though it may not be read much today, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” had the Bible beat in terms of sales throughout the 19th century. Vladimir Lenin’s worldview may have been influenced more by Nikolai Chernyshevsky’s 1863 book “What Is to Be Done?” than by Marx’s “Capital.” Far more approachable and entertaining to read than any printed manifesto, imagined worlds can be just as revolutionary. That is a fantastic opportunity for writers.
I was frequently ask about having a female protagonist when my first book, “Garnethill,” came out in 1998 (it had been tentatively titled “The Garnethill Guerrilla” after the Guerrilla Girls, the feminist artist-activist group). Wasn’t I concerned that people might mistake me for a feminist? I simply repositioned the straps on my dungarees and replied “No,” admitting that I was a terrifying feminist who ruined everyone’s fun.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, LGBT characters frequently existed just to perish in genre potboilers that dehumanized dead sex workers. Even when they were brutaliz, the ladies in these tales were always looking for a boyfriend.
It was not a Puritan impulse
to try to subvert those standards since I am aware that noir must continue to be rapid, cheap, and obscene. Noir appeals to a broad audience by virtue of its low art standing. Noir fiction’s main device is to inve a justice gap that needs to be closed. Readers are disarmed and made more outraged by shock and violence, so they aren’t being preached to but are instead encouraged to participate. Noir relies on the reader’s sense of justice, unlike whodunits and cozy crime, which are puzzles that are solved with a drip feed of clues. There is no better way to examine societal injustice and, occasionally, slightly tip the change dial.
I was ask if having a female heroine wasn’t so ubiquitous as to have become “a bit of a cliché” when I published my 15th book, two decades after my first. That’s fantastic. I view that as advancement.
I found the idea of writing a novel that is associate with a literary estate, like this Philip Marlowe book, to be an intriguing new creative challenge. To begin with, is it fan fiction? Is it a costume? How different from the original can the estate novel get? I couldn’t wait to find out.
Stepping Into Raymond Chandler’s Shoes
I quickly changed my location from a chilly and rainy Glasgow to a late September heat wave in Chandler’s Los Angeles in 1939 while surrounded by maps, books, and printouts of shoddily framed screen pictures. I made an effort to modernize his values while preserving his great, amusing language. Few Chandler novels have featured women with interior lives and goals beyond finding a mate, which is something that my Marlowe novel does. There is a thriving gay subculture and a thriving Hispanic community in my interpretation of Chandler’s 1930s Los Angeles. That’s all up to me.
Some people would say that I’m trying to cram my politics into a canonical series, but the work is inherently political; there’s no need for a shoehorn. According to literary theorist Stanley Fish, there is no such thing as point-of-viewlessness. The status quo has always been fundamentally political across all cultures and eras. It merely poses as neutral.
Fish’s well-known reader-response
theory asserts that the reader is a collaborator in a literary work, interpreting it through the lens of personal experience rather than being a passive recipient of the work. In actuality, every reader produces a new work with every reading. Every reader generation contributes a unique sense to the text. Hence, just as readers will bring their politics to the book they read, I will bring mine to the authoring of the book.
I was also the first female writer for Vertigo Comics’ “Hellblazer” series in 2006, and I was shock by the backlash the idea of a woman creating comics caused. How could I possibly try to change a cherished character!
Yet, looking back, I can see that these protesters had a point in that my voice did alter John Constantine’s persona. I don’t believe in an intrinsically female sensibility, nor am I a gender essentialist, but writers can’t — and shouldn’t try to — keep their own worldviews out of their work.
As a crime novelist, I’ve discovered that the goriest books frequently have the best opportunity of changing the world. Jennifer Mina The novella “Three Fires” and the book “The Second Murderer” are Ms. Mina’s most recent works. The first Philip Marlowe novel written by a woman is “The Second Murderer.” Me.
Stepping Into Raymond Chandler’s Shoes
most well-known for his invention of Marlowe. Reading Chandler has always been one of my guilty pleasures since it brought 1930s Los Angeles to life for me in chilly, dreary Glasgow. On the one side, there is his magnificent writing, his working-class heroes, and the sporadic deep reflections on the human condition. In addition, he frequently uses racist slurs, portrays gays and people of color in hideous caricatures, and infuses his work with misogyny. To read a story where a woman requires a smack to calm her down takes a strong stomach.
It is hard to read a book without preconceptions when you work in the publishing industry, which is the dirty truth. We evaluate the book’s cover, title, and jacket copy before we ever open a word of content, and we guess as to whether our friends were rational when they urged us to “read this now.” In order to determine whether the book has a better-than-even chance of selling more than a token number of copies, we study the reviews, dissect the blurbs, and delve beyond the coded “marketing strategies.”
The Blonde with Black Eyes
a book by Philip Marlowe.
through Benjamin Black.
Order this book.
When a well-known literary figure—one with a solid, durable reputation—is involve, our preconceptions—whether favorable or unfavorable—become even more pronounced. Not simply the legacy of the original author, but also all adaptations, tie-ins, parodies, and pastiche, have been attach to the character over the years. The character’s existence hangs over Mina Harker’s bed like Dracula, the enticing neck of the present demanding to be bit by the undead past, thus it barely matters what assessment I, the critic, provide for you, the reader.
Does that sound snide to you? Perhaps.
Publishers are now much like every other organization in the entertainment industry in that they are constantly and urgently looking for work that is similar to previous works but slightly different. Regular fare with a unique spin. something that was dead yet has the potential to live again.
The question of whether The Black-Eyed Blonde, the newest “Philip Marlowe Novel” by Benjamin Black—the acclaimed Irish author John Banville’s crime-writing alias—is art is therefore irrelevant. The typical criticism is foreshadow by the mere statement that Banville (or Black, as I will also call him) will be filling Raymon Chandler’s shoes. Commercial lines of research are what are leave: Why and how did the publishing industry get to this point? What does the future hold? Is the industry entering a feedback loop where new writers are recycling old storylines because there is nothing new to write? Or is it feasible that there won’t be much room for original, scratch-created works if derivative works take over as the main mode—a scenario that may be more plausible than we’d like to believe?
The Black-Eyed Blonde is an odd example because it is a recurrence of an event that took place 26 years ago (or a complete generation ago). The anthology Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe was release in 1988, 100 years after Chandler’s birth. The authors of this book are there to respect Chandler, not to take from him, as editor Byron Preiss remarked. The authors in question—former and upcoming private eye novelists Robert Crais, Sara Paretsky, Max Allan Collins, and Loren D. Estleman—did their best to wrestle with Chandler’s ghost without sacrificing their own voices, even if Preiss’s assertion was more of an ideal than a reality.