Re: RARA-AVIS: Ross MacDonald--the Two Faces

From: Brian Thornton (
Date: 08 Jan 2010

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    Couldn't resist a good Ross MacDonald thread, so de-lurking long enough to comment here:

    On Thu, Jan 7, 2010 at 8:59 AM, Patrick King <> wrote:

    > I'm sorry, Ken, but Ross MacDonald wrote the same story over and over and
    > over. If you've read one, you've read 'em all.

    This is an oft-repeated, broad-brush, and therefore inaccurate statement. MacDonald's well-documented personal/family problems and obsessions led him to riff on the same theme repeatedly during his hey-day (beginning with 1959's THE DOOMSTERS up at least through 1966's BLACK MONEY) and past it, which is hardly the same thing. And his early work (Non-Lew Archer novels such as THE DARK TUNNEL, BLUE CITY and TROUBLE FOLLOWS ME) was not only more hard-boiled, it was far more varied in theme.

    But saying that reading THE DROWNING POOL is the same thing as reading THE CHILL is the same thing as reading THE WYCHERLY WOMAN is the same thing as reading THE ZEBRA-STRIPED HEARSE is akin to saying if you've seen "The Old Guitarist," you've seen all of Picasso's paintings, or even that you've seen all of his "Blue" period paintings, and yet "The Old Guitarist" and the
    "Portrait of Suzanne Bloch," while both from that period and thus similar thematically, are decidedly not the same.

    > As for John D. MacDonald, it doesn't get much preachier or more
    > self-pitying than poor, old McGhee. The stories are often good, though, but
    > his sentimentality destroys the hard boiled effect.

    On this we agree.

    Brian Thornton

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