Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: That Ever-popular Macdonald Conspiracy Theory

Mark Sullivan (
Fri, 5 Mar 1999 23:39:52 -0500 (EST) It's funny, I like MacDonald for pretty much the same reasons Mario
thinks he's overrated. I like the ominous sense that runs through all
of his novels beginning with The Galton Case. I had no problem with the
similarity of plot, I saw it all as variations on a theme. Ultimately,
that's what I saw as MacDonald's concern, theme, and sometimes the plot
did suffer. But then, Long Goodbye is my favorite Chandler and it's
plot is somewhat transparent.

It also seems odd that you would cite Hansen as someone with more
plotting range. I really like Hansen, but I always felt his plots were
highly formulaic. They all revolve around each of the suspects passing
through the murder scene with Dave trying to establish the chronology in
order to discover which suspect was there at the time of the murder and
therefore did it. (I also like that none of his solutions ever saved
the insurance company a dime, just occasionally changed the

Hansen does, however, offer far more character development of
Brandstetter than MacDonald ever did of Archer, who is sort of a
structuring absence in his own books. But then I also liked that
quality of the cipher, maybe it just allowed me to put myself into the
book. Archer's role is almost as extreme as the narrator's in
Robbe-Grillett's Jealousy. He never refers to himself, just offers his
increasingly suspect observations of what is happening around him. It
takes some time for the reader to catch on that the narrative is in the
first person.

For good or bad (I think good, Mario thinks bad), I believe Millar
deserves his place in the once ubiquitous blurb, "In the tradition of
Chandler, Hammett and MacDonald." Of course, that has now been replaced
by "As good as Parker's Spenser" if it's a male PI or "As good as
Grafton's Milhoune" if it's a female; talk about damning with faint


# To unsubscribe, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
# The web pages for the list are at