The Wrong Marlowe

on an amnesiac pulp writer in L.A.

“You don’t deserve it, but I’ll give you a choice,” I said. “I was going to leave you out here, with the heat and the mosquitoes and the bugs and the snakes and the alligators. You’ll never make it in. I doubt if I could myself.” His whole face was wet as he stared at me. “You won’t go easy if you stay, so I’ll give you the choice. Stay, or take one dead center from this.” I waved the little handgun … “You’ll go out of your mind out here in twelve hours.” His chest was heaving as he tried to pump air through his constricted throat. “Take the bullet.”

— from The Name of the Game is Death (1962)

Hollywood is for the young and tough, a place where you must be beautiful simply to survive, let alone prosper. God help you if you’re homely, aging, and physically beaten. Double that if you’ve lost the creative skills you’ve counted on, and forgotten much of your life and all the people you’ve known. Double that again if you’re a writer. Let’s say it’s 1978 and you are Dan J. Marlowe, once one of the hottest suspense novelists of your day, author of such hard-boiled Fawcett Gold Medal paperbacks as The Name of the Game is Death, The Vengeance Man, Never Live Twice, and the Operation books, featuring a bank robber turned international agent. It’s 1978, yes, and the market for that kind of book has evaporated. You’re 64 years old, suffering from amnesia, glaucoma, and the consequences of a stroke. It’s painful for you even to lift your hands high enough to type.

Though you’re chubby and unathletic and wear dark, horn-rimmed glasses, in the past you’ve been hell with the ladies. Now those ladies are ghosts to you. You’ve spent more than 15 years living in Harbor Beach, Michigan, a picturesque, isolated town on the shore of Lake Huron. You made a good living, served on the city council, partied with the Rotary Club. And you found time to indulge in your own secret sexual quirkiness. Now you’re broke and short of options. So you’re moving to the City of Fallen Angels to share an apartment with a former bank robber. To try to put your writing life back together, maybe even get movies made from your books.

You’re a Hollywood Untouchable because you’re a lousy money-maker, and you’ll stay that way. People hear your name and confuse you with Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler’s iconic detective, or with your mystery-writing contemporary, Stephen Marlowe. You’re the wrong Marlowe, in the wrong time, the wrong place. So what are the chances you’ll be remembered with fondness? What are the odds that nearly four decades later, megastar horror writer Stephen King will honor your talent by dedicating a novel to you? Well, you’ve always been a gambler — a professional one for seven years. You’ve played long shots and won. Maybe you’ll do it again.

Keep reading

«Con ammirazione a Dan J. Marlowe, autore di Nome del gioco: Morte, il più duro tra i duri»

dalla dedica di Stephen King del suo romanzo Colorado Kid 


Dopo una rapina in banca costata tre morti, Chet Arnold e il suo partner Bunny si dividono. Nel suo nascondiglio in Arizona, Chet riceve ogni mese la sua parte da Bunny ma quando i soldi cessano di arrivare, il bandito si mette sulle tracce del complice per scoprire cosa gli è successo. Inizia una lunga e spietata caccia, durante la quale scopriremo la vera personalità di Chet, un sociopatico la cui amoralità sembra quasi sana e razionale in confronto all’ipocrisia e alla corruzione dei personaggi che incontra lungo la strada.
In un crescendo memorabile di suspense narrativa e scavo psicologico di un assassino quasi per caso, Marlowe ha creato uno dei capolavori dell’hardboiled al quale Stephen King ha dedicato un romanzo. 

Dan J. Marlowe nacque nel 1917 a Lowell, Massachusetts. Dopo aver lavorato in un’azienda di tabacco, nel 1956 si trasferì a New York, dove iniziò a scrivere. Due anni dopo pubblicò il suo primo romanzo Doorway to Death e tra gli anni 60 e 70 divenne uno dei più venduti autori di gialli, molti dei quali usufruirono dei consigli di un rapinatore di professione, Al Nussbaum. Nel 1977 fu colto da un’improvvisa amnesia che gli fece perdere la memoria, lasciando intatte le sue capacità di scrittore. Decise quindi di andare a vivere a Los Angeles insieme a Nussbaum, il quale aveva cominciato a scrivere durante il periodo di libertà vigilata. Ne nacque un sodalizio artistico grazie al quale realizzarono insieme alcuni racconti. Marlowe morì di infarto nel 1986.
Paragonato spesso a Jim Thompson, Dan Marlowe è ora al centro di una rivalutazione di tutta la sua opera.

Dan J. Marlowe Nome del gioco: morte
pp.192, euro 16