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Notes on "The Long Denouement"
By Lewis Shiner
It takes a lot of gall for an unpublished wannabe mystery writer to make fun of Raymond Chandler, but gall was something I was not short of at the time.
It was the summer of 1976, I was living in Dallas and reading lots of mysteries--especially Raymond Chandler mysteries. (For more about this period, see "The Short, Unhappy Career of Lew Shiner, Tough-Guy Writer.") At the same time, my pal Bob Wayne and I were putting out a monthly SF and comics fanzine called Tales From Texas. Bob had made a connection with Philip Josť Farmer, a writer we were both crazy about, and gotten a number of scoops from him for the zine.
At the time, Farmer was talking about editing an anthology of "Fictional Author" stories. Farmer loved to play with other writers' toys (Tarzan, e.g.), and went on to infamy and litigation by publishing Venus on the Half-Shell under the pseudonym of Kurt Vonnegut's fictitious author Kilgore Trout.
Ever opportunistic (and desperate), I hit on the idea of writing a Chandler parody as "Philip Marlowe," the premise being that the Marlowe stories were autobiography. A shaky foundation for sure, but here's the original intro I wrote for the story:
Discovery of a bound set of the pulp magazine Black Ribbon at an estate sale has been a boon to critics and scholars. Devoted to the exploits of dynamic fictional authors, it has also proved an important document for lovers of the the science of detection. It has helped explain the reason Philip Marlowe chose to publish his eight-volume autobiography under the pseudonym of "Raymond Chandler."
It is in Black Ribbon that we find the only examples of Marlowe's fiction. These stories, all featuring a "hard boiled hack" named Chandler, are perfect examples of the two-fisted Black Ribbon style. Marlowe's bitterness over the lack of recognition doubtless prompted his use of the pseudonym.
The Fictional Authors book never happened. The mystery magazines passed. The fabulous Pat Cadigan wanted it for her semi-pro magazine, Shayol, but for some reason it never appeared there--I think Shayol was barely clinging to life at that point. Finally, in 1983, the associate editor at The Saint Mystery Magazine told me she would buy it if I dropped the whole "fictional author" nonsense (probably a good idea) and came up with a new name for the protagonist. I agreed, and changed his name to Cadigan, in tribute to Pat. Then the Editor in Chief at the Saint stepped in, overruled her, and bounced it. He sent me a long list of things that he found unrealistic about it, having completely failed to get the joke.
Pat is far too famous now for me to use her name without distracting people. I toyed with other names to use here, then finally decided to ditch the fictional authors intro, but keep the name Chander, mostly because it added some extra sting to some of the wise cracks about critics and self pity.
So "The Long Denouement" lives up to its name, finally appearing 33 years after its creation.
© 2009 by Lewis Shiner. First published in Fiction Liberation Front, January 2009. Some rights reserved.