Monday, August 03, 2009

Ross Macdonald

Tobias Jones on the crime novels of Ross Macdonald | Books | The Guardian: "Hailed as one of the 'holy trinity of American crime writers', Ross Macdonald surpassed his predecessors Chandler and Hammett, writing detective novels informed by sorrows and by Freud, argues Tobias Jones."

Link via David Thompson on Twitter.

11 comments:

George said...

Somehow, Ross Macdonald never got the critical respect that Hammett and Chandler did. Maybe articles like this will force a reevaluation of the Big Three.

Bill Crider said...

He got respect from me and Robert B. Parker, though. We both wrote our dissertations on him.

Max Allan Collins said...

Actually, Ross Macdonald got all sorts of critical respect -- he was canonized in his own lifetime, but it hasn't quite taken hold. The unholy trinity (not holy) is Hammett, Chandler and Spillane. Spillane's influence on the field, even where Robert B. Parker is concerned, far outdistances Macdonald, who was a talented Chandler imitator. Chandler's opinion of Macdonald was that he tried too hard and was artificial. I like him better than Chandler, but he remains somewhat overrated.

Max Allan Collins said...

Excuse the clumsy writing -- I meant to say, "I like him better than Chandler did." I don't like Macdonald better than Chandler. Not hardly.

Dan said...

I really tried to like Ross Macdonald, but reading him was like watching a casket warp.

MP said...

I have an enormous amount of admiration for Hammett and Chandler, but think Macdonald was a better writer than either of them, a better wordsmith and miles better at plotting. Take Macdonald's half dozen best novels and compare Hammett's and Chandler's output to them. They each wrote one novel that's in the same league with Macdonald's best: "Red Harvest" and "The Long Goodbye" respectively. As for Spillane, those first six Hammer novels were terrific, but it was all downhill after that.

Max Allan Collins said...

Hammett's THE DAIN CURSE is the schematic for every Ross MacDonald novel. Spillane's first six Hammer novels are enough for his legacy (Hammett "only" wrote five). No single Macdonald novel ever achieved the fame of any of Hammett's, Chandler's, or Spillane's half dozen -- these are men with household name titles like THE MALTESE FALCON, FAREWELL, MY LOVELY and I, THE JURY. This doesn't mean Macdonald is without value, but it nonetheless suggests the relative importance of these writers.

Taste is taste, but I share Chandler's take on Macdonald as a writer whose prose strains for effect.

Frank Loose said...

I think you have to divide MacDonald's books into "pre" Galton Case and all those that came after it. Those before GC were Chandler imitators, but those from GC thru Blue Hammer broke new ground. Some have said he wrote the same novel again and again, but i can tell you, for my take, i wish he'd written another dozen! Not to take away from any of Mr Collins' Unholy Trinity, but RM is top drawer to me.

Bill Crider said...

I love Macdonald's books, and I love Spillane's books, but for different reasons. The world would be a poorer place, in my opinion, without the works of both those guys.

Frank Loose said...

Amen to that!

Marty said...

Ross Macdonald wrote dry prose and his books are quickly forgotten. I've read a half dozen of them and they never captured me with plot, language, characterization or turn of phrase. Even minor Chandler books contain terrific phrases and descriptions of people and place that leave you smiling in enjoyment and admiration. Macdonald was overrated in his lifetime and is mostly forgotten today--as it should be.