Mystery Net Community Mystery Greats Ross MacDonald
Ross MacDonald (Dec. 13, 1915 - July 11, 1983), was the pseudonym of writer Kenneth Millar, married to fellow author Margaret Millar. His Lew Archer series, which includes The Moving Target (made into the movie Harper starring Paul Newman), The Barbarous Coast, The Drowning Pool and The Far Side of a Dollar, stands as one of the pivotal achievements of modern crime fiction.
Macdonald explores the mean streets of California much as Chandler did before him. The pervasive sense of disillusionment, clear-eyed realism, and uncommonly fine prose have made Macdonald a regular on both best-seller and college reading lists.
Please discuss his work below.
(2 previous messages)
I wanted to alert all Ross Macdonald fans to a special package of stories now running in January Magazine as an anniversary tribute to the late author. It was 50 years ago in April that Macdonald published his first Lew Archer novel, "The Moving Target."
To celebrate our half-century in thrall to Macdonald and his fictional private eye, January has collected opinions on the novelist and his work from dozens of modern mystery writers, including Sue Grafton, Richard North Patterson, Lawrence Block, S.J. Rozan, and Stuart Kaminsky. Also part of January's commemorative coverage: an interview with Tom Nolan, author of the new "Ross Macdonald: A Biography"; an essay by Kevin Smith that looks at the appeal of Macdonald's lost-kids story theme; a fond remembrance of the author by one of his proteges, Frederick Zackel; and Gary Phillips' recollections of becoming a detective novelist in Ross Macdonald's intimidating shadow.
Anybody interested in Macdonald's life and legacy will want to read this monthlong tribute to one of the world's foremost detective novelists.
Macdonald was a master. All modern first person mystery/P.I. novelists owe him a lot. Great descriptions, and it's interesting that we really don't find out that much about the personal life of Archer, at least not to the extent we do Spenser, Elvis Cole, John Cuddy, etc. I recommend picking up all of the Archer mysteries.
That's what so interesting about these characters -- they're all paladins without much of a past. Marlowe, Archer, and even Spade just did what they did with no delving into the past (except for tantalzing glimpses.) Very European, in a way.
Forget Marlowe, Spade, etc. Archer rules! What a writer!
Big fan of Ross Macdonald-- and this is kind of weird, but I need to know when Lew Archer's birthday is! Does he ever give it in the story?
Answer to Greg M.. question: "I'm a big Ross Macdonald fan. Does anyone know the birthday of
his famous p.i., Lew Archer?"
Hi Greg-- June 2, 1914 is the date Macdonald gives for Archer's Bday.
i'm currently reading a bio of ross macdonald.. june 2 was also kenneth millar's anniversary.. archer was a gemini, but millar was a sagitarius (The Archer!)..kind of neat,eh?
Well, I'm sorry to have come to this page so lately. It seems to have run out of steam. I became a Ross Macdonald fan in the mid-'60s after I saw the movie "Harper" and read the book on which it was based, "The Moving Target." Over the next few years, I read all of the Lew Archer novels (as well as "The Ferguson Affair") that were then in print and a stayed current with each new publication. When Macdonald became silent after the publication of "The Blue Hammer," it left me with a palpable void. When he died in 1983, I learned that he had been suffering with Alzheimers for many years. I then reread some of the Archer stories and managed to get hold of read his earlier books. Still, I've missed him greatly.
Last summer, when I finally learned to surf the net, I found the January magazine articles referred to above and they brought back wonderful memories to me, while filling me new information about this wonderful man, whose real name was Kenneth Millar (pronounced Miller). I also read the biography written by Tom Noland (like Millar, a Canadian)that came out last March. For anyone who is a fan of Ross Macdonald, it is a must. I've read a lot of biographies of authors and it is one of the best. Noland is a good writer, but is a particularly thorough researcher. The book is filled with compelling information about Millar's youth and his family. I've left my name with almost all the used bookstores in town and am collecting all the copies of his books that I can find so that I always have extras to pass on to friends. I am now looking forward to rereading - no studying - the works of Millar/Macdonald.
In my judgment, I've not read any writer of mystery or detective fiction who is Macdonald's artistic equal. His rhetorical skill alone is sufficient to make him exceptional. I really don't know of many of the more critically acclaimed novelists in other fields that are in his class.
I hope all of you who have posted comments about Macdonald are still readers of him.
Bob, I was influenced by your enthusiasm for Ross MacDonald's work, and visited the local used bookstore, and came away with six titles!
I began with The Drowning Pool - and couldn't put it down. Somehow, I don't imagine Lew Archer looking like Paul Newman in my head. He's an enigma, and I look forward to learning more about this cool detective.
Mystery Net Community Mystery Greats Ross MacDonald