Of Poodles & Blondes

On this day in 1958, Raymond Chandler began his last novel, the never-completed (by him) Poodle Springs. This was Chandler’s name for Palm Springs, where “every third elegant creature you see has at least one poodle” and where Philip Marlowe has chosen to settle down with his new wife, the socialite Linda Loring. Chandler envisioned this unlikely scenario as “a running fight interspersed with amorous interludes,” but he lost interest in the idea after a few chapters and set it aside. At this point Chandler was in the last stages of a five-year alcoholic tailspin brought on by the death of his own wife after thirty years of marriage; in a few months he, too, was dead, at the age of seventy. The novel was completed by Robert B. Parker and published in 1989.

Marlowe should have known better, having shared a night with Loring in The Long Goodbye:“I watched the cab out of sight. I went back up the stairs and into the bedroom and pulled the bed to pieces and remade it. There was a long dark hair on one of the pillows. There was a lump of lead at the pit of my stomach….” Then again, she wasn’t a blonde:

…There is the soft and willing and alcoholic blonde who doesn’t care what she wears as long as it is mink or where she goes as long as it is the Starlight Room and there is plenty of dry champagne. There is the small perky blonde who is a little pal and wants to pay her own way and is full of sunshine and common sense and knows judo from the ground up and can toss a truck driver over her shoulder without missing more than one sentence out of the editorial in the Saturday Review. There is the pale, pale blonde with anemia of some non-fatal but incurable type. She is very languid and very shadowy and she speaks softly out of nowhere and you can’t lay a finger on her because in the first place you don’t want to and in the second place she is reading The Waste Land or Dante in the original, or Kafka or Kierkegaard or studying Provençal. She adores music and when the New York Philharmonic is playing Hindemith she can tell you which one of the six bass viols came in a quarter of a beat late. I hear Toscanini can also. That makes two of them….

Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.