For Parker, the trip to the yellow pages was a ritual genuflection to his literary godfather, Raymond Chandler, and to the perverse reality of the pulp myth that he created in his seven Marlowe detective novels, all located in and around Los Angeles, beginning in 1939 with "The Big Sleep."
"I think Chandler would have appreciated the gesture," says Parker, who has made a career of tailing the late mystery novelist, literally and figuratively. An incorrigible pulpmeister himself, the author of a series of neo-Chandler novels featuring an unashamedly Marlowesque hero known only as Spenser, Parker once said: "I read `The Big Sleep' when I was about 14, and it took the top of my head off. . . . I grew up wanting to be Chandler."
Parker has come close to getting his wish, not just with his Spenser books but by writing two novels about Marlowe, the latest of which, "Perchance to Dream" (Putnam, $19.95), is a sequel to "The Big Sleep." Parker's Chandler impersonation officially started three years ago when he exhumed Marlowe for "Poodle Springs," completing a manuscript that was unfinished when the author died, in 1959.