Patrick & James,
Few would assert that Macdonald was better than either Chandler or Hammett at their best. But he was more even than Chandler, and more productive than either of them.
Chandler wrote seven novels over twenty years, plus two short story collections. Hammett wrote six novels, and (depending on how you count them) four short story collections.
Macdonald wrote nineteen Lew Archer novels, several stand-alones, and one (depending on how you count) short story collection. And not a clunker in the bunch.
Moreover, if he never wrote a book as good as FAREWELL, MY LOVELY, THE BIG SLEEP, THE LONG GOODBYE, or THE MALTESE FALCON, RED HARVEST, or THE DAIN CURSE, neither did he write a book as disappointing as THE HIGH WINDOW or PLAYBACK (and I say disappointing in a relative sense only; I'd love to write a book as "disappointing").
And if Macdonald tended to reuse the same plot, the amount of ingenuity with which he worked new twists on the plot is worthy of note.
Let's give credit where it's due.
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