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A KNIGHT AT SEA
by R. J. Raskin
Black Apollo Press, 2010
This is an exceptional book - one of those wonderful ventures that somehow contrives to blend history, politics, biography, art and humour into a thumping good mystery.
Raymond Chandler, tired and enervated after the death of his wife and a lifetime of trying to craft pulp fiction into literature whilst staying true to the vernacular (even though he was a product of British public schooling), is travelling back across the Atlantic to the England of his youth on the SS Mauritania. On board he meets a man named Marlow (without an 'e' on the end we are told, to Chandler's great relief - for who wants to spend a week at sea with your alter ego?) This Marlow(e) however is a medical doctor who has a drinking problem that rivals Chandler's own. Also on board the whisky drenched luxury liner are various characters who somehow relate to Chandler's Hollywood past - an aging film star, a wealthy producer/politician, a troubled script writer, a Hollywood gossip columnist, an Argentinean emissary, an Israeli spy (perhaps) and a cringe-worthy ingénue whose father, she says blushingly, only owns a very little steel mill. In this heady soup of soused up nights and hung-over days, the aging movie star disappears. And Chandler, aghast at finding himself playing Poirot in a locked-room Agatha Christie mystery (the likes of which he bitterly detests), is compelled to find out what happened to her. But is it the movie star he is searching for or something else? And is Marlow(e), the reluctant Sancho Panza to Chandler's Don Quixote, just along for the ride?
A Knight at Sea is probably the best novel about Raymond Chandler ever written! Brilliant, bold, witty, political and totally absorbing!