Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Macdonald, Hammet, Chandler, Compassion, et al

Date: 03 Dec 2004


Re your comments below:

> Macdonald added
> something to the mix
> (compassion, empathy, whatever you call it, plus a
> certain
> psychological depth) that Chandler didn't -- and
> from pretty snide
> comments he made about Macdonald, probably wouldn't
> have.

Macdonald didn't add it to the mix; it was already there. He just took that ingredient, already provided by Hammett and Chandler, and put a lot more in. I don't say that it made no difference. I do say that it hardly makes him an originator.

And Macdonald's having gone through analysis doesn't give his books more psychological depth than Hammett's or Chandler's. It just makes the psychological elements more overt.

As for Chandler's comments about Macdonald, if you read them carefully, what he's really complaining about is that Macdonald writes so much like Chandler but doesn't do it as well.

The particular book he was talking about, THE MOVING TARGET, was particularly Chandler-like, with the opening chapters almost deliberately echoing the opening chapter of THE BIG SLEEP. No doubt Macdonald, who made no bones about Archer being "patterned" on Marlowe, meant it as homage, but the prickly Chandler took it as rip-off.

Macdonald didn't take the PI novel to places that Hammett and Chandler never took it. He just stayed there longer once he got there.

That said, I return to my original point. Macdonald was more productive, and the high quality of his work more consistent, than Chandler. Perhaps that's where his real influence lies. Neither Hammett or Chandler was that prolific. Macdonald showed that work of very high quality could be written by someone who was also diligently productive.
> I'm not sure if anyone else has added much more
> really new to the
> P.I. genre since, though, with the arguable
> exception of Robert B.
> Parker. Oh, there have been some great P.I. writers,
> but to be
> considered influential, you also have to sell beyond
> a small cult
> audience, and capture the imagination of the general
> public.

The influence I thought he'd show has been smaller than I believed would be the case, but if you want a writer who's REALLY taken the PI novel in new directions, look no farther than Joe Gores, replacing the "lone wolf" with a team, the fantasy hero who does nothing but solve murders and other serious crimes with operatives who repossess cars and do corporate security work, and the over-written angst-ridden first person narration with diamond hard third-person prose.

Inluence has not been as far-reaching as I thought it would be, but you can see it in the Devlin Kirk books of Rex Burns or the later Leo Haggerty books of Benjamin Schutz.

You can also see it in the large number of real-life PI's who've entered the PI writing field in the wake of Gores.


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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 03 Dec 2004 EST