Imitation Chandler a humorous honor

The Associated Press

LA JOLLA, Calif. — “He had a nice seductive manner, like those dark-suited zombies who sell cemetery plots to the not-yet-dead. But I wasn’t buying ...”

The smoky, hard-boiled prose of Raymond Chandler?

No, just this year’s winning effort from those who annually try to recreate the snappy ripostes of detective Philip Marlowe.

The winner of the International Imitation Raymond Chandler Writing Competition was a Duluth, Minn., English professor.

Harry Hellenbrand’s “Confusion Is My Business,” quoted above, describes a meeting between Marlowe and a character named Shapiro, who’s trying to persuade the detective to join the defense team for a man accused of killing his ex-wife.

Sound familiar?

Hellenbrand, 41, beat out 152 other entries to win the $700 top prize.

Chandler, who died in 1959, had so distinctive a voice that his Marlowe embodies the common definition of a detective: a tough-talking, street-smart, woman-ogling, fedora-wearing, gravelly voiced guy who drinks and smokes and always wins.

Chandler is the author of page-turners like Farewell, My Lovely, The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye.

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