Picks and Pans Review: Poodle Springs

updated 10/30/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/30/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Raymond Chandler and Robert B. Parker

Lewis and Clark. Currier and Ives. Lunt and Fontanne. But Chandler and Parker?

Well, why not? When he died in 1959, Raymond Chandler left behind the first four chapters of a novel called Poodle Springs. Almost 30 years later, a representative of the Chandler estate had the bright idea of getting Robert B. Parker, one of the foremost practitioners of the Chandler school today, to use those chapters as the beginning of a full-length novel. Parker, who wrote part of his doctoral dissertation on Chandler, finished his 16th Spenser novel and plunged headlong into Chandler's world. It is a pleasure to report a marriage made in hard-boiled heaven. Poodle Springs is fast, funny and full of action. Truth be told, Chandler's chapters, which constitute barely one-tenth of the finished work, do little more than set the I scene. But what a scene: Philip Marlowe, the cynical loner (and main character in five Chandler novels), has gotten married! His bride is the lovely and wealthy Linda Potter, a resident of Poodle Springs, an affluent desert community that sounds an awful lot like You-Know-Where. Philip and Linda can't keep their hands off each other, but you can't expect a guy like Marlowe to sit around the pool and sip tall scotches all day, can you? Before long, he gets a seedy office and an unsavory client named Manny Lipshultz, who runs a place called the Agony Club....

Even if the reader didn't know that Chandler had written only four chapters, aficionados of these two authors would have little trouble figuring out where old Ray left off and Robert B. picked up. Parker's Marlowe is more flippant than Chandler's, more prone to Spenserian smart-aleck comebacks. To wit: " 'You got a pretty wife,' the little hood said nastily." Replies Marlowe: " 'And any punk that lays a hand on her is already half cremated. So long, putrid. See you in the boneyard.' " That's Chandler. And now: " 'I know you're Harlan Potter's son-in-law and it don't impress me a goddamned bit.' " Marlowe's response this time: " 'Oh, darn. I was hoping you'd want to dance with me.' " That's Parker. Beyond Chapter 4, Marlowe becomes increasingly indistinguishable from Parker's modern-day detective hero. Like Spenser, the Marlowe of Poodle Springs is a tart-tongued tough guy, but also a closet romantic with his own carefully constructed moral code. In short, Parker has smoothed Marlowe's rough edges. He has also made Marlowe funnier than he used to be: "I had tossed her house like a Caesar salad and found nothing. Not a crouton." Parker fans eat this kind of stuff for breakfast, and for you Chandler devotees who quibble with liberties the disciple may have taken, here's a modest piece of advice: Relax. Sit back and enjoy this diverting yarn, the unlikely but happy collaboration of two of the finest crime writers of the century. (Putnam, $18.95)

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