Friday, September 12, 2014

Book Review: James Hadley Chase, No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1939)

First, a word to the wise about which edition of No Orchids for Miss Blandish to read: You want the original 1939 version of the book, not the rewritten, “updated” version of 1962. The quickest way to be certain that you have the 1939 text is to check the second paragraph and confirm that “Old Sam [is] asleep in the Packard.” (In 1962, the car becomes a Lincoln.) But in either version, No Orchids for Miss Blandishis perhaps more interesting than it is good. It is the first (and most popular) attempt by British writer James Hadley Chase (born René Lodge Brabazon Raymon) to write in the Amecian noirboiled vein. Published early enough that it interesting almost by definition to anyone interested in the history of genre, No Orchids for Miss Blandish has the additional historical significance of having plagiarized from William Faulkner’s Sanctuary (1931) and of having drawn the attention of George Orwell in his 1944 essay “The Ethics of the Detective Story from Raffles to Miss Blandish” (a.k.a. “Raffles and Miss Blandish”). The novel is about as brutal as a novel could be in 1939, but also a wee bit comedic for the occasional false notes of a Brit trying to write hardboiled American dialogue. I cracked a smile every time one the gangsters let drop a “shall.” Grade: C+

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