Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: RARA-AVIS Defending Archer

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 29 Aug 2001

I wrote yesterday that Micahel and I will just have to agree to disagree about the values of Ross Macdonald's post-Galton Case novels (I think they are good, very good). However, Dixon makes a very good point about John MacDonald's sermonizing, that it is actually more overt than Ross's AND that it is one of the joys of the Travis McGee series. Also, it is often just an aside, has nothing to do with the plot, triggered by something, like a strip mall, that sets Travis off while he is driving around.

This led me to look again at Michael's list. How is Chester Himes any less "preachy" than either of these two writers? I've only read his crime novels, not his more serious fiction, but even (especially?) these, Run Man Run and the Harlem novels, have a lot to say about relationships between race, crime and justice. In many of the Harlem books, particularly later in the series, like Blind Man with a Pistol, Himes's characters lecture the reader just as much as Travis AND that is part of what makes the books great.

As a matter of fact, I'd argue that Ross incorporates his "sermonizing" into his books more fluidly than John D or Himes. Although he is clearly interested in exploring the depths of the human psyche and has some clear points of view about the psychological sins of the father (or mother) being visited on the son (or daughter), I don't remember his ever "explaining" it, preaching the gospel of Freud and Jung. John and Himes preach all the time. Part of it is that their characters are more preachers than Archer, but part of it is just underlining their points, making sure no one misses them. (Again, this is not a criticism, I love reading these "rants.")


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