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Perchance to Dream by Robert B. Parker

Perchance to Dream (1991)

by Robert B. Parker

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In Raymond Chandler's "The Big Sleep", the reader was introduced to all the main characters -- Sternwood himself, his butler, his two daughters, and a gangster. And of course Marlowe was along for the ride. In this sequel by Robert B. Parker, Philip Marlowe returns to Sternwood Manor to solve the case of a missing daughter, Carmen, who disappeared from her much-deserved stay in a sanitarium.
A nice tribute to the Marlowe style, and you get to see Parker's and Chandler's styles side-by-side.
I found this to be a very strange book to read because of its constantly switching styles. The main text, written by Parker, reads like classic Spenser -- same style, sentence structure, etc. However, there are constant "flashbacks" that show up as classic Marlowe in the style of Chandler. If they were just occasional flashbacks, it might have made for an interesting read, but the constant jumps made it very hard to adjust at times.
Nice tribute, I hope future Marlowe stories stick to Spenser style
I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I was not personal friends with the author before he died, nor did I follow him on social media. ( )
1 vote polywogg | Jan 12, 2016 |
Perchance to Dream is Robert B. Parker’s authorized sequel to Raymond Chandler’s incredibly complex novel, The Big Sleep. Parker takes most of the same characters (at least those who were still alive) of Chandler’s epic novel, and spins another (not quite so complicated) tale that captures the style and mood of the original. The sequel opens with long quotations from the original to set the scene and remind readers of the original.

It is now a few years after the end of The Big Sleep, and General Sternwood has just died. His older daughter Vivian still lives in the family manse, but the younger sister, Carmen, has been sent off to live at a psychiatric rehab facility—think insane asylum with more luxurious accouterments. When the younger sister mysteriously disappears, the butler (who has been handsomely compensated by the General), calls in Philip Marlowe to find her.

Philip Marlowe, the knight errant private eye, returns in all his depravity and taciturnity. Parker’s own favorite private eye (Spenser, with an “s”) was probably based somewhat on Marlowe. Both are big—Spenser is bigger—and tough, and neither uses his first name very often (in Spenser’s case, never). Parker allows the older sister to call Marlowe “Philip” once, but it comes as quite a surprise to the detective.

Marlowe encounters a few very tough characters (“hard men” in his usage), whom Parker delights in describing. One Mexican in particular is uniquely formidable. As Parker describes him:

“The Mexican had no gun. He’d probably gotten hungry one day and eaten it.”


“I could see my gun in his [the Mexican’s] belt. At least he hadn’t tied a knot in the barrel.”

Parker describes the smile of another character as having “all the warmth of a pawnbroker examining your mother’s diamond.”

While Parker is a master of the light(er) crime fiction genre, this is still a fitting tribute to one of the pioneers of noir crime fiction.

(JAB) ( )
1 vote nbmars | Dec 17, 2015 |
Philip Marlowe returns to the Sternwood mansion in the hills of Los Angeles, having been called by Norris, the butler. Marlow finds the older daughter, Vivian, still resides there and still dating gangster Eddie Mars but her younger sister Carmen, still tormented by the events of the original story, has been sent off to live at Resthaven, a psychiatric rehabilitation facility. When Carmen disappears from there, Marlowe is hired to find her.

As most people will know, I’m a huge Raymond Chandler fan, and I think Philip Marlowe is such a great character. I was a little concerned to see that Robert B. Parker was authorised to write a sequel to The Big Sleep. As far as I can see, he butchered the character, the series and it just was torture to read. Parker is something of an expert with all things to do with Chandler, having been hired to complete the 1958 unfinished Chandler novel; Poodle Springs. But being an expert doesn’t mean he can write like Chandler nor do any justice to Marlowe.

Parker’s take on Philip Marlowe is a disaster; I found none of the wit remained and as a Private investigator, he was a bit of a lightweight. The attempt at nostalgia turns into an unequivocally puerile attempt at Chandler’s coolly sardonic narrative. Chandler’s plots are like a shadowy figure in the background, making it difficult for the reader to predict just what will happen but Parker’s plot is thrown at the reader and nothing is surprising.

Hugely unnecessary, Perchance to Dream adds no significance to the series and is just pointless. While I want to read more of Marlowe’s adventures, if they are anything like this, it’s not worth it. I’m sure I can find fan-fic with better character development and plotting than this attempt at another Philip Marlowe novel. This is the only Robert B. Parker novel I’ve read and with the damage he’s done to my beloved Marlowe, I don’t think I would want to read anything by him again.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2013/02/25/book-rage-perchance-to-dream/ ( )
1 vote knowledge_lost | Jan 30, 2015 |
so-so book by Parker trying to sound like Raymond Chandler; some nice poetic phrases. There is not much to guess and the massive corruption is reminiscent of Chinatown. ( )
1 vote raizel | Mar 6, 2009 |
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Set in Los Angeles, private eye Philip Marlowe moves deeper than ever into labyrinths of crime, duplicity, and murder.

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