Poodle Springs

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Raymond Chandler died in 1959; now, thirty years later, his estate has rewarded his patient readers with “The Poodle Springs Story,” as finished by Robert B. Parker, author of the Spenser detective series, which was adapted for television as “Spenser: For Hire.” The result is POODLE SPRINGS, in which Marlowe has married heiress Linda Potter and moved to Poodle Springs, a not very thinly disguised Palm Springs. Marlowe, however, does not take well to being known as his wife’s “poodle"; he immediately sets up shop in the seediest part of Poodle Springs that he can find. It is not long before he has his first customer; it also is not long before his independence creates friction in his marriage.

The details of Marlowe’s case begin to mirror his troubles at home. Marlowe has been hired to find another Poodle Springs plaything and bring him home--even if he is a compulsive gambler, a pornographer, and a bigamist. It is this man’s relationship with his second wife (or first, depending on how one reads the bigamy laws) that inspires Marlowe to protect Les Valentine/Larry Victor from his creditors and powerful in-laws. In the end, the issues are resolved rather neatly: Valentine’s choice of wife is made for him, and Marlowe’s marital problems are resolved through compromise. There are a couple of murders along the way, though curiously less violence than in Marlowe’s previous outings: He is shot at only once and not beaten up at all. The identity of the murderer may be a little obvious to mystery buffs, but the book is nevertheless an enjoyable read--if only for trying to solve the real mystery: where Chandler leaves off and Parker takes over. There are a few hints of Parker’s presence, mainly to do with anachronisms as far as Chandler would be concerned, but they serve really to bring Marlowe into the 1980’s and 1990’s, making him, like James Bond, an enduring and, in many ways, romantic hero.