John Banville slips into Chandler’s voice for new Philip Marlowe crime novel

BY artsdesk  March 6, 2014 at 4:39 PM EDT


Author John Banville spoke to chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown about his new Philip Marlowe crime fiction novel “The Black-Eyed Blonde.”

Author John Banville has been reading Raymond Chandler novels since he was in his early teens.

“(Chandler) invented a new kind of fiction, not just a new kind of crime fiction. He brought the crime novel to the level of literature and above,” Banville told chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown.

When Banville turned 60, he invented a pseudonym for his crime fiction. As Benjamin Black, the writer has just come out with a new novel about Chandler’s famous fictional character, private eye Philip Marlowe. That book, “The Black-Eyed Blonde,” builds on Chandler’s depiction of Los Angeles.

“He invented Los Angeles … my Los Angeles is a Los Angeles from the inside of my head and my Marlowe is slightly different to Chandler’s.”

At first, Banville thought he might update Marlowe, but he eventually decided he didn’t want to interfere with the success.

“This is a marvelous formula and a marvelous, marvelous, marvelous character. He’s slightly old fashioned, but there’s nothing wrong with that. He’s in a way a sort of unreconstructed romantic, as I am myself, as I suspect everyone is, although nowadays we have to pretend otherwise … I just sort of slipped into the Raymond Chandler voice. It was easier than I thought it would be.”

According to Banville, one reason it was easier was the pen name: “None of us is a singular being, we all invent versions of ourselves.” He says he writes more spontaneously as Benjamin Black.

“Benjamin Black is a tightrope walker: don’t look back, don’t look down, don’t pause. Just keeping going until you get to the end. Banville is a mole, digging away blindly in the dark not knowing where he’s going.”

John Banville and Jeffrey Brown continue their conversation for Art Beat. Watch the video below for the online extra.

Watch John Banville read the first paragraph of “The Black-Eyed Blonde.”