Re: RARA-AVIS: Chandler and John D. MacDonald

From: Marc Seals (
Date: 17 Dec 2004

----- Original Message ----- From: Bludis Jack

> It's an excellent take and one I would like to believe, but I guess we will never know short of
> Jim writing a scholarly article on it, which he is clearly able to try.

For what it's worth, I addressed this in the final chapter of my dissertation. I agree with Jim's take (though I do disagree with his assessment regarding what was "generally thought"). Here's an excerpt, which I do think shows that Jim is correct. Page references are mostly to the Library of America editions. I hope the formatting does not get garbled.


        Raymond Chandler, in his final years, did attempt one more Philip Marlowe novel. He only completed the first four chapters of the manuscript that he called The Poodle Springs Story. In these short chapters, we discover that Philip Marlowe and Linda Loring have been married for twenty-five days. Having just returned from their honeymoon (which took them to Hawaii and Mexico), the newlyweds are moving into their newly rented home in Poodle Springs. Marlowe no longer seems like a detective in the mold of The Maltese Falcon's Sam Spade, but instead more resembles The Thin Man's Nick Charles. Loring, in a role similar to that of The Thin Man's Nora Charles, even makes mention of a dog, a poodle named Inky (instead of, one supposes, Asta). Marlowe seems to sense the danger that this new life poses to his identity as a knight-errant detective, for he tells Loring that he will continue working. If he takes Loring's money, Marlowe says, he risks becoming "Mr. Loring" (Poodle !
 Springs 257). After alternatively trading barbs and innuendoes with Loring, he heads into town to search for an appropriate location to open a new office and check in with the local police. Neither task goes particularly well. Finally, a local gangster named Manny Lipshultz wants to have a word with Marlowe. After Marlowe declines Lipshultz's offered conference, Lipshultz sends his hired muscle to "persuade" Marlowe. Marlowe deals with Lipshultz's thugs in an amusing scene. Marlowe returns home and briefs Loring on the events of his day. And that is all Chandler wrote before he died in February of 1959.

        The premise for The Poodle Springs Story went against Chandler's stated philosophy for the well-written detective story. Chandler wrote in "The Simple Art of Murder" that the hard-boiled detective "is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He is a common man or he could not go among common people. [. . .] He is a lonely man [. . .]" (992). This exhortation would forbid Marlowe from marrying at all, but especially from marrying into wealth. Five years after writing "The Simple Art of Murder," Chandler wrote "Casual Notes on the Mystery Novel," in which he says,
  Love interest nearly always weakens a mystery because it introduces a type of suspense that is antagonistic to the detective's struggle to solve the problem. It stacks the cards, and in nine cases out of ten, it eliminates at least two useful suspects. The only effective love interest is that which creates a personal hazard for the detective-but which, at the same time, you instinctively feel to be a mere episode. A really good detective never gets married. (70)
        Chandler may have intended Marlowe's marriage to be a "mere episode." In fact, Chandler convinced his friend Ian Fleming that Marlowe's marriage was a good idea by explaining that he planned to have Marlowe drink himself to death because he could no longer work (Hiney 269). In an October 1958 letter to Roger Machell (Hamish Hamilton's director), Chandler wrote,
  My next book is to be laid in Palm Springs with Marlowe having a rather tough time getting along with his wife's ideas of how to live. He loves her and they are beautifully matched in bed, but there is trouble looming. (Selected Letters 478) This looming trouble is present in early pages of the manuscript of The Poodle Springs Story. Marlowe's very character clashes with his wife's from the start. Marlowe tells her,
  I want to make you happy. But I don't know how. I'm not holding enough cards. I'm a poor man married to a rich wife. I don't know how to behave. I'm only sure of one thing-shabby office or not, that's where I became what I am. That's where I will be what I will be. (Poodle Springs 257) Loring asks him, "Darling, does it have to be this way? It seems so unnecessary." Marlowe replies, "For me there isn't any other way" (Poodle Springs 258). When Marlowe goes to town, he immediately notices that he is treated differently. He tells Sergeant Whitestone, "I'm not backed by any two hundred million, Sergeant. I'm on my own and I'm a relatively poor man" (Poodle Springs 261). Whitestone finds this distinction amusing-and meaningless.

        Marlowe, as a married man, had lost his way, becoming an errant knight-errant. Chandler's last published letter was to Maurice Guinness, the man who had apparently convinced Chandler to allow Marlowe to marry. Dated just five weeks before his death, this letter indicates that Chandler set aside The Poodle Springs Story after realizing that it could not work. In effect, Chandler withdrew Marlowe from the fray in the middle of surrender. Chandler's letter to Guinness makes a better final statement of Marlowe's legacy than either the closing chapter of Playback or The Poodle Springs Story:
  I think I may have misunderstood your desire that Marlowe should get married. I think I may have picked the wrong girl. But as a matter of fact, a fellow of Marlowe's type shouldn't get married, because he is a lonely man, a poor man, a dangerous man, and yet a sympathetic man, and somehow none of this goes with marriage. I think he will always have a fairly shabby office, a lonely house, a number of affairs, but no permanent connection. [. . .] It seems to me that this is his destiny-possibly not the best destiny in the world, but it belongs to him. No one will ever beat him, because by his nature he is unbeatable. No one will ever make him rich, because he is destined to be poor. [. . .] I see him in a lonely street, in lonely rooms, puzzled but never quite defeated. (Selected Letters 482)

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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