RARA-AVIS: Ross Macdonald -- This list's Moving Target

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@colba.net)
Date: 30 Mar 2001

Etienne wrote:

>The biggest problem I had with most of Mcdonald novels
>is that they surely don't reflect the place he holds
>on the American "hall of fame" for noir/HB writers.
>Most of the critics of mystery lit put him on the
>podium with Hammer and Chandler!

I think you mean Hammett, don't you?

But Ross Macdonald a second rank writer? Uninvolving? Maybe his books lose something in the journey overseas, but for a certain generation
(or maybe just a certain age), Macdonald's books hit a nerve. I think we discussed this before, how many of us seem to fall in love with Macdonald's work at the same age, somewhere around our late teens, early twenties? That period where we're all trying to come to terms with our screwed up families? In some ways, and I'm sure I'm not the first to suggest it, Lew Archer is the ultimate father figure in detective fiction. Or maybe it's just me. Though I do think people tend to take his books personally.

And it's the weight of all that misery he's plowed through, and those nasty secrets (noirsih secrets, George calls them) he's uncovered, that's left Archer the quietly compassionate, but hardened man that he is. Having him bitch slap a thug or shoot his gun more often or start a riot wouldn't, in my opinion, make his character any more hard-boiled. Nor would it be true to his character.

I've always contended hard-boiled is mostly about attitude or tone, more than a mere setting or a plot device. File him under QUIET HARD-BOILED, like Mark says, alongside folks like Dan Fortune and Nameless.


Kevin Burton Smith The Thrilling Detective Web Site http://www.thrillingdetective.com
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