Re: RARA-AVIS: Black Money

From: Brian Thornton (
Date: 06 Jan 2005

Miker wrote:

> Noir is often a parade of the worthless and lost, so I
> don't mind that in Macdonald's work, but I have a hard
> time stomaching Archer's continuous narrative contempt
> for them. I would much prefer allowing the characters
> themselves to project their essence rather than to
> have to endure Archer's incessant whining.

I finished BLACK MONEY a few days back, and have been following the discussion with interest, especially miker's voluminous condemnations of the book. This is the first chance I've had to really address the topic, so sorry if I'm weighing in a bit tardily.

That said, well, gee, Mrs Lincoln, aside from that, how was the play? It's obvious that miker REALLY dislikes MacDonald's style. I didn't get that Archer's contemptuous of those he's investigating. In fact, I believe it's Archer who, when asked whether he has a passion for justice, replies that he has "a passion for mercy." I find Archer to be one of the more compassionate of the social critic-type of lone wolf private eyes. He's not as ruthless as any of Hammett's protagonists, and as Mr. T. rightly points out, he is not as cruel as Marlowe can be, etc.

Over the past few years on this list we've covered in minute detail the notion that MacDonald wrote variations on the same plot over and over again, so that observation is nothing new here. I personally think BLACK MONEY is pretty good. I was both surprised and satisfied by the ending, although I agree that these people (the "French" Gatsby clone aside) seem far too willing to talk in detail with a private investigator whom they just met.

Is BLACK MONEY in the same league with such highpoints in MacDonald's career as THE CHILL, THE WYCHERLY WOMAN, THE GALTON CASE, THE GOODBYE LOOK, or THE DROWNING POOL? I don't think so, but I still enjoyed reading it.

I was interested in the line of discussion that mentioned MacDonald intended BLACK MONEY to be a re-telling of THE GREAT GATSBY. That was an interesting comparison to make, and I could really see what he was trying to do with it.

All the Best-

Brian Thornton

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