RARA-AVIS: Why Macdonald?

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 16 Dec 2002

In a message dated 12/16/02 4:03:41 AM Eastern Standard Time, owner-rara-avis@icomm.ca writes:

 Date: Sun, 15 Dec 2002 19:28:17 -0500 (EST)
 From: William Denton < buff@pobox.com>
 Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Macdonald vs. MacDonald
 Thanks for the final answer on the name dispute. Why did Millar decide to
 use a pseudonym in the first place? Does Nolan's bio say why he picked
 Macdonald, when he must have known of JDM?
 Bill >>

Kenneth Millar had published a couple of reasonably well-received mysteries before he wrote THE MOVING TARGET as an attempt to create a series like Chandler's Philip Marlowe. To his dismay, his publisher Knopf wrote that he was bitterly disappointed in the new novel and rejected it. Millar at some point suggested trying to sell it elsewhere under another name and he suggested John Macdonald, using the first and middle name of his father John Macdonald Millar. Knopf later accepted the novel after revisions were made but he paid a $500 advance instead of the $1000 Millar had earned for his previous two novels.

Millar had not heard of John D. MacDonald. According to Nolan, he privately
(and correctly in my view) blamed his agent for not checking the name out carefully.

I found another reference to the dispute with John D. MacDonald in Nolan's biography ROSS MACDONALD. The first novel to carry the byline Ross Macdonald was THE BARBAROUS COAST in 1956. Millar wanted to transition further from the then current John Ross Macdonald by using "J. Ross Macdonald" but Knopf said it was time to go all the way and they did. Millar wrote his agent to
"celebrate the dissolution of my marriage of inconvenience to John D., whose writing fails to improve with time, I'm afraid."

Richard Moore

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