Re: RARA-AVIS: Ross Macdonald's influence

From: Michael Robison (
Date: 30 Nov 2004

David White wrote:

I think Archer is intentionally two-dimensional. MacDonald wanted the reader to view the surrounding characters through Archer, Archer as passageway into the novel. He wanted the reader to be able to make other judgements about the characters, while Archer acted as the conscience of the novel. Therefore, Archer can't really have a past or any real characterizations (especially in the later novels, save perhaps The Blue Hammer), that would impede on the impact of the surrounding characters in the novel.

************* WAHOOO! Yeah! Right on target, Dave. I thought this was especially true in THE ZEBRA-STRIPED HEARSE. The big difference between Chandler and Macdonald is the shift in focus from the detective narrator to the people, and Macdonald accomplished this by fading the light on Lew Archer, not by more vividly portraying his characters.

The subject of writer skill in characterization has been brought up. In the two novels I read of Macdonald's, I saw nothing that exceeded the grace and style with which Chandler sketched General Sternwood at the beginning of THE BIG SLEEP. The talent that Chandler shows in that scene ranks right up there with the best of Hemingway. Chandler might have had some faults, both as a writer and a person, but when he was hot, he was steaming.


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