"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Coming Straight From the Underground


Here’s a nice appreciation of Ross Macdonald’s The Underground Man by Malcolm Forbes:

Throughout his career, Ross Macdonald—the pen name of Kenneth Millar—was hailed as the true heir to Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler as master of the hardboiled mystery. But accolades beyond the reach of a genre writer still eluded him—until towards the end of his career, when he was finally acknowledged as not “only” a crime writer but a highly regarded American novelist. Macdonald subverted the genre by delivering the riddles and intricacies demanded of the crime novel in language that could be stark but also subtly nuanced and beautifully cadenced, while never slowing the requisite pace or diluting the excitement. In doing so he silenced those naysayers who had previously scoffed at the idea that the humble detective novel could possess any intrinsic literary worth. Praise finally came from both sides of the literary divide, with James Ellroy acknowledging his debt to Macdonald’s Lew Archer books and Eudora Welty lauding him as “a more serious and complex writer than Chandler and Hammett ever were.” Five of the gripping Lew Archer novels have just become part of the U.K. Penguin modern classics series. For many, this anointment is long overdue.

The Underground Man is the only Lew Archer mystery I’ve read. It’s enjoyable. The private eye helping out the lost hippie kids. Like Altman’s Marlow without the satire.


1 Matt Blankman   ~  Aug 10, 2012 10:00 am

My dad lead me to the Lew Archer books when I was a teenager. I had discovered Chandler and he had a ton of Ross Macdonald paperbacks to lend me. He's still one of my favorite writers and Archer is a great character. He's not flip like Philip Marlowe, he's sort of wracked with conscience and a certain sadness for the evils and injustices of the world.
And yes, he was nice to hippies.

2 Matt Blankman   ~  Aug 10, 2012 11:11 am

For what it's worth, Warren Zevon was a huge fan.

3 Matt Blankman   ~  Aug 10, 2012 11:16 am

..and that Tobias Jones article you linked is really good.

4 Boatzilla   ~  Aug 11, 2012 3:12 am

I really liked The Far Side of The Dollar. Much better writer than Hammet, IMHO.

5 Yankee Mama   ~  Aug 11, 2012 12:11 pm

I loved Ross Macdonald and the Lew Archer's series. My father turned me onto him as well when I was a wee lass. The books were always well written and suspenseful. Plus, I spent countless hours engrossed in them to deflect boredom. Now, I watch my kids who are the same age I was staring at the computer playing mindless games of Sims and Team Fortress 2 and I'm thinking, "Why the hell don't these kids occupy themselves by fortifying the mind?" Then I think, "I'm getting old."

feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email
"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver