Re: RARA-AVIS: Ross Macdonald's influence

From: Michael Robison (
Date: 30 Nov 2004

Richard Moore wrote:

You favor MacDonald on the basis of his better skill handling "antagonists, protagonists, and minor Characters" and say that Chandler's characterizations
"aside from Marlowe" were flat and two-dimensional.
  For the sake of argument, granting every point in the above paragraph about MacDonald's better antagonists, protagonists, etc., I am intrigued that your praise does not include the character Lew Archer. For myself, I've always found Lew Archer a bit, well, two- dimensional, certainly hazy in comparison to the various fully-drawn protagonists and antagonists.

************ My earlier comments were only about the relative influence of Macdonald, Chandler, and Hammett upon the genre, not who is the better writer.

I've only read Macdonald's THE DARK TUNNEL and THE ZEBRA-STRIPED HEARSE, but in neither of those did I see any major paradigm shift away from Chandler. I saw no big difference in the significance or quality of the characters, either.

The biggest change I see in Macdonald's work is a shift in the spotlight away from the detective narrator, possibly related to Richard's description of Lew Archer as hazy and two-dimensional, and I see that as more of a questionable experiment than a major influence on the genre.

>From what little I've read of Robert Parker, I see no
big gap between Marlowe and Spenser that can only be bridged by Lew Archer.

Although I am poorly read in the genre (compared to everybody else in rara-avis), my personal experience tells me that Ross Macdonald's influence on the genre is vastly overrated. I am not saying Macdonald is a poor writer, and I'm not saying he had no influence, but I am saying that his influence is in no way close to that of Hammett and Chandler.

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 30 Nov 2004 EST