Re: RARA-AVIS: MacDonald and Connelly

Greg Swan (
Wed, 14 Jan 1998 19:21:55 -0700 I read The Drowning Pool last November. I've been on a noir crime novel
kick for quite a few months and have been sampling lots of authors:
Highsmith, Whittington, Rabe, Willeford, Chandler, Pellecanos, Ellroy,
Leonard, Vachss, Carter Brown(!), Fredric Brown, Daly, Thompson, Gault,
Nielsen, Cain, Fisher, Marlowe, Spillane, Williams, Ross MacDonald.

There've only been three disappointments in a stack of about 50 novels.
Unfortunately, Ross MacDonald was one of them. I had to work harder to get
through Drowning Pool than any of the others I read. (Ellroy's Suicide Hill
was a close second, though.) Particularly relative to the laudatory quotes
on the jacket, my lack of appreciation of the Archer novel has been a real
head scratcher for me. Why did I find the book so darn dull?

I still don't have much of an answer. From a plot standpoint, my overall
impression was that Archer sort of did things aimlessly until the book ran
out of pages and it was time to reveal the murderer. I hardly ever lost
myself in the book. Instead, I kept saying, "Yes, I'm reading a book."
When that happens to me, the characters always seem like puppets on
strings. There were occasional interesting vignettes. I liked the motel
owners' contrasting views of the sleepy, upscale town versus the rowdy,
growing village, for instance.

The noir element wasn't very apparent to me, either -- and that's what I've
been trying to read of late. Perhaps the book is better evaluated as a
mystery novel that happens to have a private investigator as the lead
character. That is, not all novels which feature a tough-talking private
dick are necessarily noir. Those reading Drowning Pool expecting a good
whodunit might meet their expectations better than those wanting to take a
ride on a roller coaster of impending doom.

Dunno. I'll keep reading your comments and maybe someone will hit the nail
on the head and I'll say, "Yeah, that's why!"

Back to lurking,

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