Tugging the Leash

Marlowe's back, and Parker's got him. Well he should. Parker knows every one of Chandler's quirks: he wrote part of his dissertation about Chandler twenty years ago. And then he started writing his Spenser books. (Where do you suppose he got the idea to name his private eye after a 16th-century English poet?) But Spenser is very East Coast—unlike Marlowe, the disillusioned voice of La-La Land.

There's no point in belaboring the "plot" or the action of Poodle Springs—there wasn't much point to that in Chandler's books, either, because readers followed Marlowe for the uneasy atmosphere and the snappy patter, not for the rhinestone ratiocination or even for what was going to happen next. Readers hung not on what Marlowe said but on how he said it; they turned the pages of the books because Raymond Chandler compelled them with what he called "magic" and "music."

Parker undoubtedly has some of that wise-cracking Marlovian magic. His ventriloquism is accomplished—he makes you want to turn the page for some more of this sort of stuff:

"Do detectives have fights, Mr. Marlowe?" she said.


"Sometimes," I said. "Usually we put the criminal in his place with a well-polished phrase."

"Are you carrying a gun?" I shook my head. "I didn't know you'd...

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