Wednesday, January 24, 2007

"Malibu Tag Team" by Jonathan Valin

From: Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe: A Centennial Celebration, ed. Byron Preiss, 1988, 1999.

Originally published on the centennial of Chandler's birth, Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe collects twenty-five original Marlowe stories by some of the most notable writers of the time, each owing a particular debt to Chandler and/or Marlowe. The stories proceed in chronological order by the years in which they are set, from the mid-1930s to the late 1950s.

Praising Chandler's style, wit, and voice, and knowing his short stories often laid the groundwork for his novels, Valin set out to write the story that might have been the springboard for Farewell, My Lovely (1939), the first Marlowe novel he read.

A former wrestler still going by "The Crusher" forcibly hires Marlowe as a go-between to pay off crooked fight promoter Tony Loma. Marlowe learns The Crusher himself is acting on behalf of his wrestling partner Elmo, who owes Loma $5000.

When it appears Loma has stolen the money The Crusher hoped to pay him, the wrestler heads off to confront the promoter, knowing full well he may not come back.

Meanwhile Marlowe tracks down Elmo, who believes he's successfully scammed Loma when in fact the true culprit has scammed him. Marlowe and Elmo race to save The Crusher, but they are too late. Valin's contrast of the thuggish but honorable Crusher with the naive, scheming Elmo is his own variation on Chandler's theme of what it means to be a man.

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