RARA-AVIS: Text of a Ross Macdonald letter (from 1976):

From: Todd Mason ( Todd.Mason@tvguide.com)
Date: 04 Dec 2003

A dealer is selling a Ross Macdonald letter with the following text (I don't know if this 1976 letter "to a Swedish critic" has been collected, but I suspect quoting it here is fair use):

"My first two books, 'The Dark Tunnel' and 'Trouble Follows Me,' he writes,
"were written during the war and it seemed natural that they should be spy novels. Tunnel was suggested by my experiences in Nazi Germany in 1937-38; Trouble by my experiences in Hawaii after I was commissioned in the U.S. Navy. Both books were written quickly while I was occupied with other duties, but they were at least a start. My later books are political, but less overtly so. As Graham Greene inspired those early spy novels, Raymond Chandler inspired my first detective story, 'Find the Woman.' I wouldn't describe it, however, as an imitation of Chandler, though it was certainly influenced by him. It was my first response to Southern California...I don't recall that 'Blue City' was intended as a counterpart to Hammett's 'Glass Key.' I do consider it my first really serious effort, and it was inevitably influenced by Hammett, whom I had been reading for half of my thirty years. But 'Blue City' is not in the same class as 'The Glass Key,' which may well be the greatest of all American crime novels. H.C. Branson, author of 'The Leaden Bubble' and other excellent novels, was the first crime novelist
(besides my wife Margaret Millar) whom I knew in the flesh. He was also, and remains, a fine stylist, able to show a less experienced writer like myself that mystery genre is capable of hatching serious fiction. Harry Branson encouraged me both professionally and personally. It seems to me time that his brilliant detective novels were rediscovered. Agatha Christie has been an neinspiration to all her fellow crime writers. She seems the best and most brilliant and most various plotter in the field. Her prose is...perspicuous, moving easily in mood from dark to light. Above all she had a gusto that communicated itself to both writers and readers. She loved her craft, and taught us to do the same. "An excellent and informative letter and signed at the end "Kenneth Millar/Ross MacDonald."

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