RARA-AVIS: Re: The 150 Best Harboiled/Noir 1929-69

From: jeffwong_ny ( jeffwong_ny@yahoo.com)
Date: 06 Jan 2008

--- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com, harry.lerner@... wrote:
> For his Lew Archer series, THE CHILL and BLACK MONEY are among his
> best, although all of the Lew Archer stories are worth a read. >
Quoting Jeff Vorzimmer <jvorzimmer@...>:

> >> What about the other MacDonald, Ross?
> >
> > Haven't read that many. Any recommendations?

Jeff - Harry's recommendation of THE CHILL is a good place to start. A careful reader of the Macdonald canon will be rewarded on several levels. Macdonald generally plays fair, and the convoluted plots can be solved if you pay attention. More interesting, though, is his use of themes and imagery to drop clues throughout each novel. In THE CHILL, bird imagery is used to foreshadow events or give clues as to the killer's identity (a pigeon in Chapter 6, and an owl in Chapter 9). In THE BARBAROUS COAST, the theme of masks and layers obscuring the truth factors into the story tremendously. In the opening chapter, he establishes the masked/layered theme when he describes an area "masked with oleanders". He follows up with references to masks throughout
(Chapters 7, 20, 21, 22, 31 to name a few). In THE ZEBRA-STRIPED HEARSE, as you might imagine, he plays with black and white (and grey imagery), light and dark, all through the book. In SLEEPING BEAUTY, orange is sprinkled through the book (the eye of a bird, a dress, Orange County).

Millar/Macdonald studied Imagist poets and theory and applied this in his novels. He was very familiar with the work of Richard Aldington, John Gould Fletcher, Amy Lowell, T.E. Hulme, and Remy de Gourmont. All of his novels are loaded with metaphors and similes that are often part of the structure of the book; he would use a series of image arcs to tie various elements of the book together.

The nice thing about his books is that they work as detective yarns, but, there's a lot more going on under the hood if you're willing to look and pay attention.

Harry - Thank you--I'm aware of Lew Buckingham.

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