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Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe: A Centennial Celebration [Hardcover]

Raymond Chandler
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 12 1988

Authorized by the estate of the late Raymond Chandler, this volume reveals the missing life history and detective adventures of Philip Marlowe, one of the 20th century's most enduring and beloved characters. Marlowe is the quintessential American detective: cynical yet idealistic; romantic yet full of despair; a gentleman capable of rough violence.

The stories are written by some of the detective-mystery genre's leading lights, including Max Allan Collins, Sara Paretsky, Roger L. Simon, Stuart M. Kaminsky, Robert Crais, Edward Hoch, Ed Gorman, Eric Van Lustbader, Loren Estleman, Simon Brett, and Joyce Harrington. The final story in the volume is Raymond Chandler's last Marlowe adventure:"The Pencil."

The stories run chronologically through the career of Marlowe, from 1935 through 1960. These are classic Marlowe tales of betrayal, mistrust, and double-dealing on the seamy side of Los Angeles.

You can share your thoughts about Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe in the new ibooks virtual readers' group at www.ibooksinc.com

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Penzler Pick, January 2000: Originally published a decade ago and now expanded, this book is a homage to the greatest detective story writer of the 20th century, an Anglo-American who took Los Angeles, his adopted home, off the road maps and into the land of legend. For Raymond Chandler, who died in 1959, his literary descendants will do just about anything, and that includes contributing to an anthology honoring him. Thus, in here we find the likes of Sara Paretsky, Robert Crais, Loren D. Estleman, Jonathan Valin, Robert Campbell, Eric Van Lustbader, Simon Brett, Julie Smith, Jeremiah Healy, Roger L. Simon, James Grady, and numerous others creating stories in the style of Chandler and in the voice of Marlowe. But, as editor Byron Preiss remarks, "The contributors of this book are here to honor Chandler, not to steal from him."

He also says, "Many would not be the writers they are had not Chandler followed Hammett and Cain down the back alley of fiction into the realm of art." That's certainly a succinctly expressive summation. Moreover, today the idea of the "mean streets" that Chandler wished the best heroes to traverse is one that has, perhaps more than ever before, seized the imagination of the public when it comes to popular entertainment. What's old is new again, as they say, and in this case that means noir.

In an introduction by Robert B. Parker--who himself finished the incomplete Chandler novel Poodle Springs (1990)--we learn the essentials of Chandler's life (the British public school education, the wife who was 18 years older than he, etc.). But in the stories essayed here we get the effects of an imagined world that has become an entire universe.

Among the many included are tales of the Thelma Todd murder scandal by Max Allan Collins; of Dr. Seuss's missing watercolors by Robert L. Simon; of a pro wrestler called The Crusher by Jonathan Valin; and of the ancient jeweled skull that was the inspiration for Hammett's Maltese Falcon by Dick Lochte.

Two new stories, not in the earlier edition of this volume, are by Simon, creator of Moses Wine, and J. Madison Davis, the author of Red Knight and White Rook and president of the North American Association of International Crime Writers.

Finally, there is an afterword by Chandler scholar and biographer Frank McShane. And, yes, the real Raymond Chandler is here too, represented by the story "The Pencil," in which that particular writing instrument turns out to be one gift you never want to receive. This book is not quite the real thing; it can't be. But it's as close as you could hope to find. --Otto Penzler --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Library Journal

Philip Marlowe is arguably the most popular and influential character in American hard-boiled detective fiction. There is a little bit of the wise-cracking, incorruptible Marlowe in just about every detective that followed since he made his debut in Chandler's The Big Sleep in 1939. To commemorate Chandler's 1988 centenary, 25 of today's top mystery writers, e.g., Max Allan Collins, Sara Paretsky, and Loren Estleman, offer their take on Marlowe. The collection is nicely capped with Chandler's own last Marlowe story, "The Pencil." Marlowe's popularity has waned very little, so this should circulate well.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Collection of Chandler pastiches is uneven Jan. 29 2003
Format:Paperback
Raymond Chandler and Philip Marlowe are the beginning of modern detective fiction, along with Hammett and Spade. Chandler was a preeminent stylist who wrote his way into American letters by helping to create a genre, the private eye novel. He cut his teeth writing short stories for pulps in the twenties and thirties, so it's appropriate that this collection highlights short stories. The stories were written by contemporary authors; the idea was to have them write stories with Marlowe as the main character, covering the period in which Marlowe figured in short stories that Chandler wrote. There is one story per year, with several on the back end of the collection that don't carry an exact date, and one story ("The Pencil") written by Chandler himself, late in life, to round things out.
The collection is, of course, uneven. Most of the writers more or less produce Chandler-like prose and characters, but some of the plots are distinctly unlike the great one. The collection starts off on the right foot with a Max Allan Collins story which is very good, and in the Collins mold. It's a historical mystery revolving around a thin pastiche of an old Hollywood mystery: who killed actress Thelma Todd? The rest of the stories are written by such leading lights as Robert Crais, Sara Paretsky, and Loren D. Estleman. They're rounded out by stories from such also-rans and where-are-they-nows as Benjamin Schutz, Francis Nevins Jr., Jonathan Valin, and Jeremiah Healy. I don't want to give the impression that I don't like any of the latter collection of writers (I particularly enjoyed Schutz), but they can hardly be called contemporaries, given that they haven't written in years.
I did enjoy the collection of stories, and I enjoyed the premise of the collection itself. I found the stories uneven.
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2.0 out of 5 stars The Long Let-Down Aug. 8 2001
Format:Paperback
This was an exceedingly disappointing book. The stories were almost all adequately written but few of them did justice to Chandler's creation. Stuart Kaminsky and Max Allan Collins, as well as a couple of others, turn in admirable efforts. One star of my rating is for them. The other star is for Chandler's story 'The Pencil' alone.
It is fine that the authors speak in their own voice; who, after all, could truly duplicate Chandler's awesome prose? Yet they not only fail to match his skill, they fail to match his intent. Too often in this collection, Marlowe is bastardized for the sake of the author's political leanings, to advance a cause.
Marlowe was a hero in spite of himself, a champion of the lower classes, one with probable leftward leanings. (Chandler had acquired a refined dislike, or at least mistrust, of the upper crust during his formative years in England.) But as Marlowe prowled the mean streets righting wrongs, seeing that justice was done when the law would not quite do it, Chandler never allowed himself to preach. And that is what a couple of these stories do. It was a testament to Chandler's supreme skill that he could be such a strong voice for counterculture and yet ultimately fight to keep some type of moral status quo in gray circumstances.
Authors paying tribute to Dickens would not portray Tiny Tim as walking into a bank, speechifying on the plight of the poor and beating the rich old moneychangers on their heads with his crutch. And authors paying tribute to Chandler should not have had him doing many of the pettily pointed things he was doing in this book. Does anyone really think Marlowe would punch someone connected with the HUAC and sanctimoniously call him an a******? There are other similar forays into homiletic demagoguery.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read for Chandler fans July 31 2000
By rbs
Format:Paperback
One of noir's greatest characters handled by the writers influenced by his creator. An great idea to celebrate the centennial, but a bit uneven in my opinion. This can hardly be avoided when so many hands are in the pot, but a majority of the stories are well-written, and it's a plesant surprise when other Chandler characters make cameos. The year by year treatment of Marlowe was another good take, but again, due to the varied styles of the writers, development of the character is not a priority. Good book, great for fans, but I'd suggest sticking to the original.
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By A Customer
Format:Paperback
wow--everybody from robert crais to sara paretsky doing philip marlowe. the standards are high--and the book is structured largely in chronolgical order so that marlowe actually ages as you read the book. chandler's pothumous collaborator, robert b. parker has an introduction
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars this is such a cool book! 0ver 20 new marlowe stories Nov. 1 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
wow--everybody from robert crais to sara paretsky doing philip marlowe. the standards are high--and the book is structured largely in chronolgical order so that marlowe actually ages as you read the book. chandler's pothumous collaborator, robert b. parker has an introduction
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read for Chandler fans July 31 2000
By rbs - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
One of noir's greatest characters handled by the writers influenced by his creator. An great idea to celebrate the centennial, but a bit uneven in my opinion. This can hardly be avoided when so many hands are in the pot, but a majority of the stories are well-written, and it's a plesant surprise when other Chandler characters make cameos. The year by year treatment of Marlowe was another good take, but again, due to the varied styles of the writers, development of the character is not a priority. Good book, great for fans, but I'd suggest sticking to the original.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ". . . So many continue to assault the citadel . . . " Dec 1 2001
By Paul Dana - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In the title to this review, I borrowed Chandler's quote from his essay, "The Simple Art of Murder." It does seem appropriate, for this volume is the ultimate celebration of Raymond Chandler's genius -- simply because of the failure of most of the writers who partake herein!
The premise of this anthology is simple: Published for the centennial celebration of Raymond Chandler's birth; therefore, invite the top mystery writers of the day (1989) to submit a short story involving his ultimate literary creation, Phillip Marlowe, set between 1933 (the year in which Chandler published his first short story) and 1959 (the year of Chandler's death, and the year in which he published his last short story).
Real simple, huh? (Hah!)
Frankly, only Max Allan Collins (of 'Nate Heller' fame) comes even remotely close, in his roman-a-clef treatment of Hollywood star Thelma Todd's murder. (Note: Chandler himself would use not only certain aspects of her death -- i.e., a question of the slippers she was wearing ['The Lady In The Lake'] -- but the Santa Monica location itself [the description of Lindsey Marriott's Bay City address in 'Farewell My Lovely']. Chandler based many of his own short stories -- as well as the circumstances in at least two of his novels -- on contemporary Los Angeles history and events.)
This collection, as I mentioned previously, memorializes Raymond Chandler's success through the failures of subsequent authors. (These failures are due to many individual shortcomings, a lack of knowledge of L.A. history and development, on the one hand; or, frankly, of geography, on the other, as well as a simple lack of understanding of Chandler's concept for his protagonist -- i.e., one particular story which practically canonizes Marlowe back in his Santa Rosa hometown -- let alone his singular vision.)
A collection of very good mystery writers took part in this project. Their failure to recreate Raymond Chandler's singular vision is in no way a criticism, but rather a stirring acknowledgment of his achievement. It is also a testament as to why, again, as Chandler put it, "So many continue to assault the citadel."
5.0 out of 5 stars Just like Chandler is still writing April 23 2013
By dcjenn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I love these stories I wish they would do more books like these Just like Chandler is still writing great read
4.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction for the Marlowe novice. July 15 2007
By David C. Roller - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A 2007 Summer mini review.

When I began reading this book, I had never read a Phillip Marlowe story. The idea of filling out his "life" and giving other writers a crack at the sleuth intrigued me.

While the selections produced by the assemblage of various mystery writers is top notch, it was not difficult to surmise that no one writes Marlowe like Chandler. His "The Pencil" is hands down the best story the volume has to offer.

The Perfect Crime by Max Allan Collins seems to catch Marlowe's penchant for taking the law in his own hands. Stardust Kill by Simon Brett gives us a glimpse of the type of corruption that the detective encountered in his career. The final story, Summer in Idle Valley by Roger L. Simon, is a whimsical encounter between Chandler, Marlowe and Dr. Seuss. Each story begins with an illustration and ends with authors' commentary on the impact of Raymond Chandler on their own writings. These musings, as much as the stories, make me want to become more intimately associated with the detective.
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