Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Ross MacDonald's Lew Archer

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The Lew Archer Novels

From the Shelf
Peter Jaszi
The Harvard Crimson
31 October 1967

If contemplating the politics of despair has left you a little ill in mind and heart, if you crave a measure of vicarious escape, I do not direct you to the series of fourteen novels Ross MacDonald has written about Los Angeles private detective Lew Archer. That would be a bit too much like presenting a presurgical patient with Gray's Anatomy by way of light reading.

Since the publication of Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest on February 1, 1929, the best crime novels have not offered much in the way of escape or solid, mindless entertainment. Nowadays, even the casual student of the American pathologies, public and private, may find the fiction of mayhem crucially disturbing and very much worth the reading. The worst examples of the genre present the symptoms of our virulent malady in pure form, and a new Mickey Spillaine is not pleasant going, precisely because it has roughly the same significance as a fresh mass murder. The best books of the type offer symptomology, diagnosis, and like most good physicians (and all great works of art), a tentative prescription for treatment. Among living crime novelists, Ross MacDonald is simply the best of the best.

In 1946 MacDonald, newly discharged from the Navy and beginning a career as a novelist, was casting about for a form. That year, long before he created Lew Archer, he produced two books which, their considerable merits aside, are valuable as indicators of his early concern with themes and fictional modes which dominate his later writing. Blue City is an ultra-tough, gut-wrenching narrative of personal vengeance, distinguished by a flexible and convincing use of vernacular speech, a sound knowledge of the impact produced on a human body by objects of diverse shape and size, and a vision of American life in which obsessive violence is not a chance phenomenon but an invariable condition. The Three Roads, a thriller about an amnesiac's torturous investigation of a murder he may well have committed himself, establishes MacDonald's interest in detailed and accurate psychological observation, and his regard for the complex reverberations of a guilty past in an uncertain present.

A statement of the limitations of MacDonald's earliest books only makes it easier to take the measure of his later achievement. Novels like Find a Victim (1954), The Barbarous Coast (1956), The Galton Case (1959), The Zebra Striped Hearse (1962), The Chill (1964), and The Far Side of the Dollar (1965) are unabashedly ambitious, richly peopled, and often far longer than a typical mystery. They are also scrupulously and economically plotted, perfectly paced, simple in style, and developed with attention to details of character and locality, ranging from the involutions of a twisted family group to forest, sea, and asphalt geography of his native California. They are books which go far beyond justifying the presence of their thematic content, to giving that content the weight of artistic truth.

In any writing, quality and quality alone is the first critical consideration. In his essay The Simple Art of Murder Raymond Chandler writes: "The detective story, even in its most conventional form, is difficult to write well. Good specimens of the art are much rarer than good serious novels." MacDonald's best work demands our consideration, not because the author is an intelligent man sincerely interested in serious issues, but because he has found in crime fiction a form perfectly appropriate to those interests, and in himself a talent capable of developing that form to a new level of complexity and interest.
More here:

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Hugh Masekela RIP

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Hugh Masekela, South African trumpeter and a leading voice in the anti-apartheid movement, dies at 78

Harrison Smith
The Washington Post
23 January 2018 

Hugh Masekela, a South African trumpeter and singer who formed a musical bridge between two continents, mixing American jazz with African folk in records that made him an early avatar of world music and a joyful standard-bearer of his country’s anti-apartheid movement, died Jan. 23 in Johannesburg. He was 78.

Mr. Masekela (moss-ay-KAY-lah) had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008. His son, Sal Masekela, announced the death in a statement.

Bra Hugh, as he was affectionately known in South Africa, played the fluegelhorn and cornet, as well as the trumpet, and he drew from genres as disparate as disco and mbaqanga, a style of South African dance music. He explored the percussion-heavy sound of Afrobeat, collaborated with trumpeter Herb Alpert on a pair of jazz-funk records, performed with the London Symphony Orchestra, and scored a No. 1 hit with a pop instrumental — the sunny 1968 track “Grazing in the Grass.”

With encouragement from the globally renowned South African-born protest singer Miriam Makeba, his wife in the mid-1960s, he also lent his baritone voice to songs in Zulu, Xhosa and English. A political self-exile for three decades, he wrote the anti-apartheid protest anthem “Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela)” (1987), inspired by a birthday letter Mr. Masekela received from the imprisoned activist and future South African president.

Mr. Masekela had been a virtuosic jazz musician in South Africa before landing in New York in 1960, aspiring to be a bebop star. Trumpeter Miles Davis suggested that he instead “make a name” for himself by fusing his knowledge of jazz and African song. Otherwise, Davis warned, “You’ll be just like a thousand other jazz players; you’ll just be a statistic.”

Mr. Masekela took the advice, defying record executives who said his sound was “too African.” He wryly mocked American listeners’ understanding of Africa, titling his third solo album “The Americanization of Ooga Booga” (1966). The record’s cover featured a barefoot Mr. Masekela standing in the jungle, holding a briefcase and clad in a Brooks Brothers suit.

Not all listeners appreciated Mr. Masekela’s new sound — the record “pissed off a lot of jazz purists,” he later told the Contra Costa Times — but Mr. Masekela remained a pop music fixture, in part through his work in rock-and-roll.

A friend of Jimi Hendrix’s, he played trumpet on singles for the Byrds and performed at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, where his howling rendition of “Bajabula Bonke (The Healing Song)” was captured in an acclaimed documentary by D.A. Pennebaker.

“The Healing Song,” a Swazi folk tune he learned from Makeba, initially served as a B-side for “Grazing.” The song featured a jangling cowbell, a soaring trumpet solo and a melody written by actor-composer Philemon Hou. It climbed the charts a second time after the soul group Friends of Distinction added lyrics and recorded a cover version.

Mr. Masekela demonstrated a knack for writing jazz-infused pop songs, scoring hits with “The Boy’s Doin’ It” (1975), a funky dance number, and the disco single “Don’t Go Lose It Baby”(1984).

But his music never strayed far from politics. In concerts, Mr. Masekela discussed the meaning of songs such as “Stimela (Coal Train),” about displaced workers in Johannesburg, and “Soweto Blues,” about a 1976 massacre of black schoolchildren, which he often performed with Makeba.

“I’m a parasite on the world’s conscience, to make them scratch sometimes,” he told Britain’s Guardian newspaper in 1990.

In the early 1980s, he moved to Botswana to start a mobile recording studio and school for African musicians. The school, near the border of South Africa, shuttered in 1985 after defense forces from the apartheid regime conducted a raid in the area, killing 15 people.

With South African playwright Mbongeni Ngema, he composed and arranged the music for “Sarafina!,” which opened in New York in 1987 — transforming “the oppression of black townships,” New York Times theater critic Frank Rich said in a review, “into liberating singing and dancing that nearly raises the theater’s roof.” The show received five Tony Award nominations, including for best musical and best original score, and was adapted into a 1992 movie starring Whoopi Goldberg and Makeba.

Mr. Masekela was by then in the midst of a late-career resurgence, buoyed by a collaboration with Paul Simon. Simon had recorded parts of the 1986 album “Graceland” in South Africa with local musicians, breaking a United Nations boycott and infuriating anti-apartheid groups who argued that he was implicitly condoning the white-only government.

Mr. Masekela, however, saw the album as an opportunity to broaden the appeal of South African music. He organized a group of South African musicians who performed in stadiums worldwide during Simon’s “Graceland” tour. With Makeba, guitarist Ray Phiri and the choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, he played hits such as “You Can Call Me Al” alongside protest anthems and the Pan-African liberation song “God Bless Africa.”

“South Africa has become a spectator sport,” Mr. Masekela told the Los Angeles Daily News in 1987, dismissing “Graceland” critics who argued that South African musicians shouldn’t show support for Simon by playing with him on tour.

“If these people are prevented from playing with us overseas,” he continued, “and they are prevented from playing over there in South Africa because of the color of their skin, then I don’t know what the people who want to help us are aiming at. It is as if they are saying, ‘We must deprive you in order to help you.’ ”

Ramopolo Hugh Masekela was born in the coal-mining town of Witbank on April 4, 1939. The son of a health-inspector father and social-worker mother, Hugh (as he became known) was raised mainly by his grandmother, who ran an illegal drinking house known as a shebeen.

Alcohol sales were prohibited for black South Africans, and “drunkenness to a great extent was a form of defiance,” Mr. Masekela told NPR in 2013. He acknowledged addictions to “drinkin’, cokin’, smokin’ — you name it, all the ’kins,” before seeking treatment in the 1990s. Drug use, he said, led him to squander $50 million over the course of his career.

He had shown promise on piano in childhood but became entranced with the trumpet after seeing “Young Man With a Horn” (1950), a Kirk Douglas film about a troubled jazz musician. At the time, he was attending St. Peter’s, an Anglican prep school in the suburbs of Johannesburg, where his musical precociousness was matched only by his reputation for unruliness.

“If I can get a trumpet,” he promised his chaplain, “I won’t bother anybody.”

His chaplain, the anti-apartheid activist Trevor Huddleston, granted his wish, and Huddleston soon found enough interest among other students to start a band.

Within a few years, Mr. Masekela became a founding member of the Jazz Epistles, a pathbreaking black jazz group in South Africa. The 1960 Sharpeville massacre, in which scores of anti-apartheid demonstrators were mowed down by police gunfire, squashed Mr. Masekela’s dream of touring with the group. With the support of entertainers including Harry Belafonte, Mr. Masekela moved to New York, studied at the Manhattan School of Music and released his first record, “Trumpet Africaine,” in 1963.

He married Makeba the following year. “It was difficult, because I was a little bit more popular; men always like to know they’re in control,” she later told the Guardian, recalling the lead-up to their divorce in 1966. “We just decided, like he likes to say, ‘Let’s call it a draw.’ ” The couple continued performing together until her death in 2008.

Mr. Masekela’s marriages to singer Chris Calloway, daughter of American bandleader Cab Calloway, and to Jabu Mbatha also ended in divorce. In 1999, he married Ghanaian-born Elinam Cofie.

Survivors include two children from other relationships, Pula Twala and Selema “Sal” Masekela, who works as a musician and journalist; and two sisters, Elaine Masekela and Barbara Masekela, who served as Mandela’s chief of staff after he was released from prison and was later South Africa’s ambassador to the United States.

Mr. Masekela received a Grammy nomination for best world music album with his 2012 record “Jabulani” and appeared at a White House jazz gala in 2016.

“Heritage restoration is my biggest obsession,” he told the San Francisco Classical Voice in 2011. “Our heritage has been condemned over the years by religion and colonization, and by Western media and culture, and unless African music is owned, produced, distributed, packaged and sold by Africans to Africans in Africa, you can’t say African music is growing. It’s very important to revive heritage and make it visible, so that when our grandchildren grow up, they won’t have to say, ‘We used to be Africans . . . long ago.’ ”

Friday, 26 January 2018

Dead Poets Society #64

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Advice to a Young Writer by Henry Miller

All piffle & twaddle – influence of Bottom Dog man.
For real “decadents” read Huysmans & other French authors.
Diarrhea of words – stew of classic allusions.
Fuck Artemis et alia!
Don’t put intellect in your prick!
Write honestly even if poorly.
Humor is weak – immature.
Try drugs and compare two kinds of writing.
Try using only Anglo-Saxon words.
Throw your dictionary away!
Don’t mix realism with poetics!
If you can’t make words fuck, don’t masturbate them!
When you speak of Cunt put hair on it!
Try to forget everything you learned in college.
Try talking like an ignoramus – or an Igaroti.
Read, for emetic, “Palm Wine Drinkard.”
You will learn to write only when you stop trying to write.
A line without effort is worth a chapter of push and pull.
First ask yourself if you have anything to say.
Don’t draw the pen unless you are ready for the kill.
If you don’t get rid of the Classics you’ll die of constipation.
Never show any one what you’ve written until a year or two later.
Use the axe to your 1st draft and not the fine comb.
The latter is for lice!!!

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Last night's set lists

At The Habit, York: -

Ron Elderly:-
Try A Little Tenderness
Dock Of The Bay

Da Elderly: -
I'm Just A Loser
You've Got A Friend

The Elderly Brothers: -
All I Have To Do Is Dream
Walk Right Back
He'll Have To Go
I Saw Her Standing There

A packed house was quite a surprise for late January, but with the colleges starting up again there was an influx of folk who hadn't been around since before Christmas. That included the band Small Screen (pictured) who made a great sound and delighted the audience with 2 original songs and an excellent cover of John Prine's Angel From Montgomery. Blues aficionado Leo played his resonator guitar finger-style to great effect. The Elderlys returned after a couple of weeks absence to finish off the night - and for once we played without the lyrics book! The music continued unplugged for the next hour and most of the late night revellers joined in and sang along - great fun!!

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Film Noir Posters #7 Night and the City (Dassin, 1950)

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I'll take the first, the last, the German and French over the rest. The German poster looks like it's advertising an early 20th century expressionist crime movie whereas the Italian one seems to be for an action movie!

Monday, 22 January 2018


Bob Dylan's Shutdown Part II version of Thunder on the Mountain:

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Dorothy Malone RIP

Oscar winner Dorothy Malone, mother on ‘Peyton Place,' dies at 93

Associated Press
Los Angeles Times
20 January 2018

Actress Dorothy Malone, who won hearts of 1960s television viewers as the long-suffering mother in the nighttime soap “Peyton Place,” died Friday in her hometown of Dallas at age 93.

Malone died in an assisted living center from natural causes days before her 94th birthday, said her daughter, Mimi Vanderstraaten.

After 11 years of mostly roles as loving sweethearts and wives, the brunette actress decided she needed to gamble on her career instead of playing it safe. She fired her agent, hired a publicist, dyed her hair blonde and sought a new image.

“I came up with a conviction that most of the winners in this business became stars overnight by playing shady dames with sex appeal,” she recalled in 1967. She welcomed the offer for “Written on the Wind,” in which she played an alcoholic nymphomaniac who tries to steal Rock Hudson from his wife, Lauren Bacall.

“And I’ve been unfaithful or drunk or oversexed almost ever since — on the screen, of course,” she added.

When Jack Lemmon announced her as the winner of the 1956 Academy Award for best actress in a supporting role for the performance, she rushed to the stage of the Pantages Theatre and gave the longest speech of the evening. Even when Lemmon pointed to his watch, she continued undeterred, thanking “the Screen Actors and the Screen Extras guilds because we’ve had a lot of ups and downs together.”

Malone’s career waned after she reached 40, but she achieved her widest popularity with “Peyton Place,” the 1964-69 ABC series based on Grace Metalious’ steamy novel that became a hit 1957 movie starring Lana Turner. Malone assumed the Turner role as Constance Mackenzie, the bookshop operator who harbored a dark secret about the birth of her daughter Allison, played by the 19-year-old Mia Farrow.

ABC took a gamble on “Peyton Place,” scheduling what was essentially a soap opera in prime time three times a week. It proved to be a ratings winner, winning new prominence for Malone and making stars of Farrow, Ryan O’Neal and Barbara Parkins.

“RIP Dorothy Malone, my beautiful TV mom for two amazing years,” Farrow posted on Twitter.

Malone was offered a salary of $10,000 a week, huge money at the time. She settled for $7,000 with the proviso that she could leave the set at 5 p.m. so she could spend time with her young daughters, Mimi and Diane. She had been divorced from their father, a dashing Frenchman, Jacques Bergerac.

He had been discovered in France by Ginger Rogers, who married him and helped sponsor his acting career. They divorced, and he wooed and wedded Dorothy Malone in 1959. The marriage lasted five years and ended in a bitter court battle over custody of the daughters. “I wish Ginger had warned me what he was like,” she lamented.

Malone married three times — two and a half by her calculation. Her second marriage, to stock broker Robert Tomarkin in 1969, was annulled after six weeks, Vanderstraaten said. A marriage in 1971 to motel chain executive Huston Bell also ended in divorce.

“I don’t have very good luck in men,” she admitted. “I had a tendency to endow a man qualities he did not possess.” When a reporter suggested that she was well fixed because of the “Peyton Place” money, she replied: “Don’t you believe it. I had a husband who took me to the cleaners. The day after we were married, he was on the phone selling off my stuff.”

When she was born in Chicago on Jan. 30, 1925, her name was Dorothy Eloise Maloney (it was changed to Malone in Hollywood “because it sounded too much like baloney,” she said). When she was 3 months old, her father — a telephone company auditor — moved the family to Dallas, where she was raised in a strict Catholic household.

“As a child I lived by the rules,” she said in 1967, “repeating them over and over, abiding by them before I fully understood their full meaning.”

In 1942, an RKO talent scout saw her in a play at Southern Methodist University and recommended her for a studio contract. Her first three movie roles were walk-ons with no lines; her later roles were not much improvement. A move to Warner Bros. in 1945 provided greater opportunity.

In her first film at Warner Bros., “The Big Sleep,” she was cast as a bookshop clerk who is questioned by Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart). She closes the shop, lets her hair down, takes off her glasses and seduces the private eye in a shelter from a thunderstorm. Her other films at the studio were less provocative. They included “Night and Day,” “One Sunday Afternoon,” “Colorado Territory,” “Young at Heart” and “Battle Cry.”

Free of her Warner Bros. contract, Malone was cast by Universal in “Written on the Wind,” which she later termed “the most fun picture I ever made.” Important films followed: “Man of a Thousand Faces” as the wife of Lon Chaney (James Cagney); “Too Much, Too Soon” as Diana Barrymore, the alcoholic daughter of John Barrymore (Errol Flynn); “The Last Sunset,” a western with Kirk Douglas and Rock Hudson.

None of the roles matched her Marylee Hadley in “Written on the Wind,” and she welcomed the offer of “Peyton Place.”

“At the time, doing television was considered professional death,” she remarked in 1981. “However, I knew the series was going to be good, and I didn’t have to prove myself as a star.”

After the series ended, she appeared in TV movies, including “Murder in Peyton Place” (1977) and “Peyton Place — The Next Generation” (1985).

With her feature career virtually ended, she moved to Dallas to take care of her parents. After they died, she continued living in Dallas, making occasional returns to Hollywood and forays into dinner theaters. In 1992, she was again in a top feature, playing an aging lesbian murderer in the Sharon Stone-Michael Douglas sex thriller, “Basic Instinct.” It was her final on-screen role.

Funeral arrangements were pending Friday. Besides Vanderstraaten, Malone is survived by a brother, retired U.S. District Judge Robert B. Maloney, and another daughter, Diane Thompson, all of Dallas.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Peter Wyngarde RIP

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Peter Wyngarde: Cult TV star who inspired Austin Powers dies aged 90

18 January 2018

The actor Peter Wyngarde has died aged 90, his agent has confirmed.

Wyngarde played dandy detective Jason King in the 1970s TV show of the same name - which was a partial inspiration for the Austin Powers films.

He had numerous stage roles, as well as playing the gold-masked Klytus in Flash Gordon and Timanov in Doctor Who.

His agent and manager, Thomas Bowington, described him as "one of the most unique, original and creative actors" he had seen.

"As a man, there were few things in life he didn't know."

"I sometimes nicknamed him The King because he simply knew everything," Bowington added.

Wyngarde started his career on stage, in a production on Noel Cowards' Present Laughter at Birmingham's Theatre Royal in 1947; and later starred opposite Richard Burton in the big-screen adaptation of Alexander the Great.

In 1959, he starred in ITV's South - which some have claimed was the first gay drama on British television.

Set during the US Civil War, it featured Wyngarde as a Polish army lieutenant Jan Wicziewsky, who must decide who he loves: Miss Regina, a plantation owner's niece; or a tall, rugged officer called Eric MacClure.

Broadcast live at a time when homosexuality had not been decriminalised in the UK, the drama received scathing reviews in the press.

"I do NOT see anything attractive in the agonies and ecstasies of a pervert, especially in close-up in my living room," noted The Daily Sketch's critic.

"I think you have to give Wyngarde a massive pat on the back in terms of the bravery in taking this role," said BFI curator Simon McCallum when South was rediscovered five years ago.

The furore over the programme did not affect the actor's career, and he guest-starred in a number of 1960s television shows including The Saint, The Prisoner and The Avengers before debuting Jason King in the spy drama Department S.
The character proved so popular that Wyngarde got a spin-off series, which made him a household name in the US and Australia.

He started his own fashion column in a daily newspaper and, after Australian women voted him the man they'd most like to have an affair with, was mobbed at Sydney airport.

"It was one of the most terrifying experiences I can remember," he later recalled. "They got me to the ground, tore my clothes, debagged me... I was in hospital for three days."

Wyngarde was briefly married to actress Dorinda Stevens in the 1950s, and then had a long-term relationship with actor Alan Bates.

His career suffered a setback in 1975 when he was arrested and convicted of "an act of gross indecency" with a lorry driver. He was fined £75 by magistrates under his real name Cyril Louis Goldbert.

The star said the conviction upset him deeply, but did not affect his career. However, his days as a leading man were largely finished.

He attributed his decline to type-casting by "small-minded people", but homophobia was undoubtedly a factor.

King remained his best-known character, a globe-trotting playboy with an astonishing array of outfits. And it wasn't just his sartorial extravagance that inspired Mike Myers to create Austin Powers: King even uttered the phrase "groovy, baby" in one episode.

"I decided Jason King was going to be an extension of me," he once said. "I was inclined to be a bit of a dandy - I used to go to the tailor with my designs."
However, he took the character's lifestyle a bit too literally, battling alcoholism in the 1980s. He only quit after cutting ties with a close friend in a fight he couldn't remember.

"Jason King had champagne and strawberries for breakfast, just as I did myself," he told The Observer in 1993.

"I drank myself to a standstill. When I think about it now, I'm amazed I'm still here."

Wyngarde died at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London after being unwell for a few months.

His agent said that, despite his age, the actor had roles and appearances lined up for the coming year.

Mark Gattiss was among those paying tribute on Twitter.

"What a life. What a legend. Jason King is dead. Long live Jason King!"
Fellow Doctor Who writer Paul Cornell also paid tribute, acknowledging that many details of Wyngarde's life, including his place of birth and parentage, were unclear.

"It's terrible and impossible that #peterwyngarde is dead," he wrote, linking to the star's uncharacteristically caveat-heavy Wikipedia page.

"Such an extraordinary, detail-disputed, life. He was oddly magnificent."

And he also starred in tow of the best horror films ever made: The Innocents (Jack Clayton, 1961) and Night of The Eagle (Sidney Hayers, 1962)

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Last night's set lists

At The Habit, York: -

I Am A Child
Human Highway
Teach Your Children

It was a cold night in York which meant that The Habit was half empty for the earlier part of the evening. With fewer players, the offer of 2 songs was extended to 3. However, as the night wore on, the bar filled up nicely and for the last hour there was a good crowd in the place. The acoustic jam continued for an hour after the main event and brought the usual eclectic mix of songs: - Tom Petty, The Platters, Jim Reeves, Eddy Arnold, The Beatles etc.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Liam Neeson as Philip Marlowe?

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Liam Neeson to play Philip Marlowe. ‘It’s about bloody time’
At 64, is the Ballymena actor too old to play Ramond Chandler’s much acted detective?

Donald Clarke
The Irish Times
Monday 3 April 2017

It seems as if Liam Neeson is about to play Philip Marlowe. William Monahan, writer of The Departed, will be adapting Benjamin Black’sThe Black-Eyed Blonde – a sequel to Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe stories – and the Ballymena man has agreed to walk the mean streets.

“It’s hard to tell who has the more of a lion’s heart and soul, Philip Marlowe or Liam Neeson,” Monahan said. “I hope I’ve done the both of them and a picture I could not anticipate more some service.”

Benjamin Black is, of course, a penname for John Banville, Booker prize-winning novelist and former Irish Times Literary Editor.

The first thing to say is: it’s about bloody time. We think of Chandler’s private detective as one of cinema’s essential protagonists. But it has been nearly 40 years since he appeared in a major motion picture. (Meanwhile, in the last 15 years, we have had no fewer than three Spider-Men.)

The last big-screen Marlowe adaptation was, alas, Michael Winner’s misbegotten take on The Big Sleep from 1978. Trust Mr Winner to kill off a much-loved icon.

Memories of that film bring us to a second uneasy observation. One of the main criticisms of Winner’s The Big Sleep hung around the lead’s superannuation. Robert Mitchum got away with the role in Dick Richards’s fine Farewell My Lovely three years earlier, but, by 1978, then 60, the star was looking a bit scuffed around the edges.

Is it unkind to mention that Neeson is 64? Banville’s novel is set in the early 1950s when, if Chandler is to be trusted, Marlowe was approaching his middle 40s.

Ah, never mind that. Raised on a diet of cigarettes and rubbing alcohol, tough men aged a lot more rapidly in those days. Humphrey Bogart, who died at 57, never looked younger than Neeson looks today. Age need not be a consideration.

Professors in Chandler Studies will, however, remain cautious about seeing an accurate translation of the literary character. After all, it’s never really happened before. There have been some excellent adaptations of Raymond Chandler novels.

A case could be made for The Big Sleep (1946) as the best film of Howard Hawks’s illustrious career. Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye (1973) is one of the great Los Angeles odysseys. Robert Montgomery’s The Lady in the Lake (1947) made famously audacious use of the subjective camera.

Yet none of those films really featured the character we meet in the books. They were none the weaker for that. But I make the observation anyway.

Phillip Marlowe drinks too heavily, but he is not an alcoholic. He is cynical about the compromises around him, but he never gives in to amorality. Bogart’s performance in The Big Sleep does not grind against those gears. The actor was, however, neither so tall nor so handsome as Chandler suggests.

He is also probably a little less well read. Banville described Marlowe as “a bit of an intellectual” in a recent musing on the creation of The Black-Eyed Blonde. Educated at Dulwich College in South London, Chandler was always proud of his learning and passed that on to his creation.

Ian Fleming admitted that, after reluctantly accepting Sean Connery as James Bond (who was supposed to look like Hoagy Carmichael), his perception of his own character began to change. John Le CarrĂ© said much the same about Alec Guinness’s portrayal of George Smiley (who was supposed to look like Arthur Lowe).

But Marlowe’s character remains reasonably consistent throughout the books. He is never so slovenly and disorganised as Elliot Gould in The Long Goodbye. He is never so amiable as James Garner in the too-swinging Marlowe (1969).

The sense of an inner Englishman that Dulwich lent to Chandler’s creation is missing from all those performances. Marlowe is a deceptively nuanced creature.

It offers no great challenge to accurately represent an empty cipher on screen. Every actor who has played Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan – Ben Affleck, Harrison Ford, Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin – has wrestled effectively with the agent’s inner nothingness.

To paraphrase Gertrude Stein on something else, there’s no there there. Such great actors as Bogart, Gould and Garner have, in contrast, made a workable hybrid from their own psyches and Chandler’s immortal material.

We ask no more than that Neeson do the same.

Probably not a great idea - though there were rumours that Hugh Laurie was going to play Lew Archer in a version of The Galton Case a few years back... Jon Hamm, anyone?