RARA-AVIS: Re: Poodle Puddle, and Chandler Drippings

Kevin Smith (kvnsmith@colba.net)
Mon, 29 Mar 1999 09:48:32 -0500 >I, on the other hand, didn't mind the HBO movie of POODLE SPRINGS much at
>all. I found it at least somewhat flavorsome of Chandler, which is really
>about all that can be said of any movie based on a Chandler novel, since no
>novel IS the movie, and vice versa. It didn't begin to touch my favorite
>Chandler-based movie, FAREWELL, MY LOVELY, but it troubled me much less than
>I expected it to. I think I may have even liked it better than the book,
>which was a little too much Parker and not enough Chandler for me. James
>Caan would never have been my ideal for Marlowe, but even with his New York
>accent, he wasn't bad. I had a much better time watching this movie than I
>ever would have expected.

Gee, the reason POODLE SPRINGS sounds more like Parker than Chandler might
be that Parker wrote almost the whole thing. Chandler left behind only the
first four chapters or so, and I thought Parker (already hardboiled's
favorite whipping boy) did a reasonably good job, considering that no
matter how good a job he did, he was bound to be trashed for it. And the
byline DOES read by Raymond Chandler AND Robert B. Parker.

What was interesting was all the vitriol thrown at Parker (even before the
book came out) when many of his contemporaries (a few of them Parker
bashers as well) pulled the same trick, albeit in short story form, a year
earlier in RAYMOND CHANDLER'S PHILIP MARLOWE, and emerged unscathed, for
the most part. Granted, I think the short story collection was, overall,
better than POODLE SPRINGS, but those authors also had it relatively easy.
They only had to deal with a Marlowe we already knew pretty well, and they
only had to do it in a short story. And the critical blame could be spread
around. Parker had to write a complete novel, and he had to take Marlowe
into a whole new direction. We don't know exactly what Chandler had in
mind for Marlowe as a married man, but my guess is that if Chandler had
lived to complete POODLE SPRINGS, it may well have been met with less than
overwhelming critical success as well. Maybe even less than popular success.

Should Parker have not taken on the job he was offered by the Chandler
estate? Maybe. But he did. And surely there were few crime writers as
popular at the time, owing so much to Chandler, or with as much experience
as Parker at dealing with a private eye who is part of a long-term romantic
relationship. And, like it or not, at the time Parker's name was seriously
being bandied about as the logical successor to Hammett, Chandler and
Macdonald. For the estate (or publishers or whoever), it must have seemed
like a natural. Both Chandler and Parker have done far better work, but I
didn't find POODLE SPRINGS to be dreadful, either. It wasn't high art, but
I enjoyed it; a sort of literary game of "What if..." It was fun.

(Yeah, I know, there goes my HIGH-FALUTIN' LITERARY CRITIC membership card...)

And some of the short stories in RAYMOND CHANDLER'S PHILIP MARLOWE are
pretty darn good, too. But the best Chandler/Marlowe pastiche, I think, was
Uruguayan writer Hiber Conteris' TEN PERCENT OF LIFE. It's 1956, and
Marlowe's hired to look into the suicide of a literary agent who
represents...Raymond Chandler. It's respectful, yet playful with the
Chandler's work, a difficult balance.

On the other hand, avoid at all costs William Denbow's CHANDLER, a horrible
mock-bio featuring Chandler and Hammett, acting as private eyes, teaming up
to crack a murder case (yeah, right). Now this one is truly dreadful...

I haven't seen the TV flick, but by all accounts, the writers barely used
anything from Chandler OR Parker. And one of those writers is Tom Stoppard,
who's currently being sued by crimewriter Faye Kellerman for ripping off
one of her books, A QUALITY OF MERCY, for the screenplay of SHAKESPEARE IN
LOVE. And no doubt the Shakespeare estate has hired John Grisham to write a
sequel to THE MERCHANT OF VENICE... (See, there's this young, idealistic
lawyer, just out of law school, whose first client is this old Jewish
guy....) And surely they'll be getting Melissa Ethridge to re-record the
old Joplin hit as TAKE ANOTHER PIECE OF MY FLESH, NOW, BABY for the

But I digress....

Kevin Smith
The Thrilling Detective Web Site

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