On The Books: Literary Critic David Kipen on What’s Caught His Eye

These three Chandleresque mysteries honor literary sleuth Philip Marlowe, who’d be 75 this year

In the last four months I’ve read three Raymond Chandler novels—none of them by Chandler himself. Last year Janice Steinberg’s The Tin Horse tracked a minor character from The Big Sleep, the “intelligent Jewess” Philip Marlowe flirts with in a bookstore, into her own adventure as a Boyle Heights-bred lawyer. In February Kim Cooper, coproprietrix of Esotouric’s bus tours, published The Kept Girl, a voice-perfect 1920s mystery narrated by a pre-Marlowe Chandler (full disclosure: I blurbed it). Enter Booker-winning Irish novelist and critic John Banville’s The Black-Eyed Blonde, released under his never-secret pseudonym, Benjamin Black. This one’s impeccably ventriloquized, but Marlowe dithers away too much suspense as he gripes about his case. Happy 75th, Marlowe. Don’t your heirs know not to give a septuagenarian a mirror for his birthday?