Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Tobias Jones on Ross Macdonald in yesterday's Guardian

From: Patrick King (
Date: 03 Aug 2009

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    I've wanted to like Ross MacDonald since my 13th birthday when a friend's mother gave me one of his books knowing that I liked that kind of stuff. I didn't like it then and though I've kept up with his work, I still don't like it. It is no complement to say of Archer, as was said of the 18th century parliamentarian, John Wilkes, that he's so thin when he turns to the side he disappears. Archer has absolutely no range of character at all, no distinguishing traits, no real opinions. As compared to Marlow, his wise cracks are forced and often timed so stupidly you'd have to guess he wants to be beaten to a bloody pulp... which he usually is. Quantity never makes up for quality. To put that guy on a level with Chandler and Hammett makes me think someone is desperate for a crime fiction triumvirate. Mickey Spillane is a more likely 3rd wheel than Ross MacDonald, and, yes, I am joking. In the realm of what they do, Hammett & Chandler sand together alone.

    Patrick King

    --- On Mon, 8/3/09, JIM DOHERTY <> wrote:

    From: JIM DOHERTY <> Subject: RARA-AVIS: Re: Tobias Jones on Ross Macdonald in yesterday's Guardian To: Date: Monday, August 3, 2009, 8:15 AM



    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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