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

From: Kevin Burton Smith (kvnsmith@sbcglobal.net)
Date: 05 Aug 2009

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    On Aug 5, 2009, at 12:58 AM, rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com wrote:

    > "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."

    Must make for a smoother finish, all that sanding over all those years.

    But you're on record as stating that books featuring "hate-filled, pissed-off misanthropic thugs incapable of adult relationships (my wording)" about sums up your taste in crime fiction. So there's nothing there to suggest you'd like Macdonald no matter how many times you "tried."

    I think one of the reasons Macdonald's often included in the big three
    -- was it the book MURDER INK that first suggested that trio? -- is that's Macdonald's proven so influential over the years. Scratch a P.I. novel that offers a compassionate gumshoe, a little emotional, multi-generational angst and a little poppy psychological depth, and chances are you'll find a little Macdonald influence in there.

    No, Macdonald wasn't the first to bring a compassionate eye or any of that other stuff to the mix, but you can see a more-or-less straight line going from Hammett to Chandler to Macdonald and right on through to Parker, Crais, Dewey, Mosley, Greenleaf, Block, Westlake (as Coe), Valin, Hansen, Pronzini, Muller, Michael Collins, Hughes, Grafton and a ton of others.

    Spillane's influence is a lot less straight and obvious. (the third- and-a-half-man?). The men's adventure boom of the seventies is the most pervasive, I guess. Mike Hammer would have dug Mack Bolan and The Punisher. But the breakneck pacing, revenge obsession, over-amped sex and violence Jim and others others attribute to him seems to have influenced film more than crime literature. He's the John Carroll Daly of mid-century crime fiction.

    Joe Gores? As great as a writer as he is, in terms of influence on the genre, we're still waiting...

    Whereas Hammett, Chandler, Macdonald and Spillane pretty much make up the Mt. Rushmore of hard-boiled detective fiction.

    And Jim wrote:

    > But Macdonald's pretty well-entrenched in the trinity's third slot,
    > and nothing anyone says here is likely to dislodge him.
    > But, though he's not as good as Chandler, and might not deserve that
    > number three position, he is, nonetheless, a great writer, an
    > admirable writer. And to admit that doesn't, in any way, diminish
    > the accomplishments of Hammett or Chandler.

    Infallibly put.


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