RARA-AVIS: Black Money: competently sedate

From: William Denton ( buff@pobox.com)
Date: 05 Jan 2005

Here's the beginning of chapter 31 of BLACK MONEY (it includes the "moral hardship" that Ms. Montin mentioned):

| It was a moral hardship for me to walk away from an unclosed case.
| I went back to my apartment in West Los Angeles and drank myself
| into a moderate stupor.
| Even so I didn't sleep well. I woke up in the middle of the night.
| A spatter of rain was rustling like cellophane at the window. The
| whisky was wearing off and I saw myself in a flicker of panic: a
| middle-aged man lying alone in darkness while life fled by like
| traffic on the freeway.
| I got up late and went out for breakfast. The morning papers
| reported no new developments. I went to my office and waited for
| Peter to change his mind and phone me.

This is as self-reflective as Archer gets in the book, and this and three or four other lines are all we read about him and his past. He's a quiet, unobtrusive narrator, and what he thinks comes across almost entirely in descriptions of people and in dialogue. I can't remember if he's like this in the other books, but he seems like a thoughtful guy who's seen a lot and knows there isn't a lot he can do about it.

Archer's very much in the Marlowe vein, but he seems to be a jokeless Chandler type who narrates in more of a Hammett style. There are no monologues, no caustic comments on society, no wisecracks, no lacerating self-analysis. It's told pretty flatly. All of which makes for a rather dull character.

I liked the book. It's well written and the mystery's good. It's an interesting look at a particular place and time. Archer seemed to do an awful lot of driving and people would tell him their darkest secrets with hardly any prodding, but he did solid detective work and put together all the pieces.

On the other hand, I'm not going to rush to read any more Archer novels. It has a competent sedateness, and some thoughtful dialogue (I'll type in a longer quote tomorrow), but it didn't thrill me.

Is it hardboiled or noir? It's neither!


William Denton : Toronto, Canada : http://www.miskatonic.org/ : Caveat lector.

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 05 Jan 2005 EST