Home > 2000, 21st Century, American Literature, Crime Fiction, Swierczynski Duane > It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window. Raymond Chandler

It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window. Raymond Chandler

December 5, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Blonde by Duane Swierczynski 2006 French title: The Blonde

Just thinking about The Blonde brings a smile on my face. Funny, gripping, crazy, daring, witty are the adjectives that come to mind. It’s full of references to classic noir films and fiction and I’m sure I missed most of the references. The title of the post is the opening quote of the book, putting your reading journey under the protection of the master of literary Noir crime fiction.

Swierczynski_BlondeJack Eisley is sitting at a bar in the Philadelphia Airport. Tomorrow, he has a meeting with his soon-to-be-ex-wife and her lawyer and soon-to-be-next-husband. Jack dreads the meeting and he’s happy to chat innocently with a pretty blonde at the bar. Everything seems alright until she tells him that she put something in his drink and that he’ll die in a few hours. Meanwhile, Mike Kowalski, profession: secret agent for a weird agency, is doing a side job for himself. He’s currently slowly and methodically eliminating all the people responsible for the death of his beloved Katie. He’s about to pull the trigger and score one more enemy when his special phone rings and his contact asks him to go and get the head of a Pr Manchette (*nudge, nudge*) who died in the morning. Kowalski’s employers want to analyse Pr Manchette’s head. In addition, he needs to get a woman called Kelly White who was last seen at the Philadelphia Airport. Back to Jack, who’s now at his hotel room, sick as a dog at the exact time the blonde had predicted he would be as a result of the poisining. He starts believing she did spice his drink with a lethal weapon. He rushes back to the airport to find her and put his hand on the antidote.

As it is, both Kowalski and Jack are after the same woman, Kelly White. They embark in a fast paced trip across Philadelphia at night and the reader takes a seat aboard an UFO of a book. Jack soon finds out that Kelly White has a virus which doesn’t bear privacy, loneliness or solitude. If she’s farther than three meters from another human, she dies within 3 minutes. Isn’t that idea fantastic? It provides countless possibilities of comical scenes in a novel. Imagine living a daily life with this when the others around you don’t know it. You’re constantly invading other people’s space, you can’t pee on your own and you act suspiciously promiscuous. The horror.

The intrigue is made of this incredible scenario of futurist science whipped with international terrorism. This icing on the cake is the personal Vengeance carried on by Kowalski. All this works extremely well. Duane Swierczynski manages to write a coherent and yet totally wacked story. Mike could have a penguin as a teammate and the reader would accept is a fact. He’s that good! The ending is surrealist and yet totally logical. The style is full of catchy dialogues, urgent descriptions and striking imagery. Here are Jack and the blonde during their first encounter:


You’re looking for something unwinding and well-written? A book to take you away during a journey on a train? The Blonde is for you. What about me? I loved this book and I already have Fun and Games waiting for me. As often, I owe the discovery of this writer to Guy’s impeccable tastes in literature. Thanks again, Guy.

PS: For readers who can read Spanish or French, I recommend Carlos Salem. He’s Swierczynski’s European evil brother.

  1. Brian Joseph
    December 6, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    The plot does seem like a lot of fun. I usually love these odd and quirky story lines when they are mated to good writing.


    • December 6, 2013 at 8:02 pm

      It’s a lot of fun Brian. I kept wondering how he could invent things like this.


  2. December 7, 2013 at 6:20 am

    I’m so glad you liked this Emma. This is a very talented author who is underrated, I think.


    • December 7, 2013 at 6:20 am

      If you ever feel like diving into his Charlie Hardie trilogy, I recommend it highly.


      • December 8, 2013 at 11:00 pm

        I’m not sure I want to embark on a trilogy. I’ll decide after Fun and Games.


    • December 8, 2013 at 11:00 pm

      If all his books are as good as this one, then yes, he’s talented.


  3. davidsimmons6
    December 7, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    What a coincidence! I just happen to be reading Mandarin’s Jade, one of Raymond Chandler’s many short stories that preceded and contributed to his more famous novels. This fabulous blonde quote from Farewell My Lovely that you cite is right there, word for word, which confirms the “cannibalization” Chandler admitted to. Thanks for the trip.


    • December 8, 2013 at 11:03 pm

      Les grands esprits se rencontrent! Chandler is a wonderful writer.
      Duane Swierczynski plays with references to other writers and it’s a lot of fun. I enjoyed his playful mind and I couldn’t put the book down. An excellent moment.


  4. December 7, 2013 at 11:04 pm

    Nice review, Emma! Nice to know that the book starts with a Raymond Chandler quote. I enjoyed reading that dialogue you have quoted. I liked very much what you said about Guy – yes, he is the noir connoisseur and guru 🙂


    • December 8, 2013 at 11:06 pm

      This quote put the book under a good tutelage.
      I recommend this writer.


  5. December 8, 2013 at 10:32 am

    That’s sounds like a book I’d like.The quote makes it sound very promising.
    Off topic – How did you add a screenshot to your pos? I can’t seem to download them as jpg files. A MAC problem, suppose.


    • December 8, 2013 at 11:09 pm

      You’d probably like him.

      I’m not sure I understand the problem you had. I have a tool to capture part of the screen. That’s what I did with the quote (I wanted the disclosure to be right). I captured the quote, put it on Powerpoint, converted it in a JPG file and uploaded it in the post. Did you have trouble seeing it?


      • December 9, 2013 at 2:24 pm

        It worked just fine. I meant that I can’t do that with my laptop as it converty it into weir files. Sorry for the confusion.


        • December 9, 2013 at 8:08 pm

          Ah, ok. Have you tried my method? It might work.


          • December 9, 2013 at 8:17 pm

            I have to try again. It didn’t really work, it just didn’t save as jpg


  6. December 10, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    I’m hoping this comes out on kindle, as I’d rather read one of his stand-alones than start a new trilogy. It does sound good, anything both you and Guy recommend frankly is likely to be very good.


    • December 10, 2013 at 10:46 pm

      Thanks for the vote of confidence. You’d like it, I think. It’s available on the kindle, I have downloaded a sample. My copy is in French.


  1. December 27, 2013 at 12:07 am
  2. April 13, 2014 at 9:01 am
  3. August 2, 2015 at 10:48 pm
  4. June 27, 2020 at 7:22 am

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