After having read that Ross Macdonald was alleged to write hard-boiled, noir, detective fiction as well as Raymond Chandler and Dashiel Hammett, I had to check him out. The first book was indeed good, but my kindle access to Ross Macdonald was limited. No copies in my own library and only a couple at the Boston Public Library. But, it seems that the Woburn Public Library has a much larger selection of Macdonald titles. So, of course, I had to get me a library card to the Woburn Public Library. I could easily do that on my way home from a visit to my friendly audiologist. And so I did. This is the first of the Macdonald titles I checked out from them.
This is, naturally, a convoluted tale. An oil tycoon, Ralph Sampson, goes missing. His wife is worried about his drinking, gambling, and womanizing, but wants him back, if only to make sure she outlives him before his fortune disappears. She calls in Lew Archer to find the man. On his way in to meet with the woman, to get more details, Archer first meets Alan Taggert, the family pilot, and Sampson's delectable daughter, Miranda. Miranda, it seems has designs on Taggert. Sometimes, Taggert plays along, but other times he makes it clear he is uninterested.
So, it seems that Taggert flew Sampson from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, or environs. Sampson was drunk as a lord by the time they got to the airport. By the time Taggert had put the plane to bed, Sampson had disappeared. The limousine called to pick him up got a later call telling them not to bother. So who had picked up Sampson, and where did he go? That's Archer's problem in a nut shell. Well, a few days later, they get a ransom note, written in Sampson's handwriting. That rather escalates the problem, how to pay the ransom, while still getting Sampson back alive?
So, we wander into The Wild Piano, a bar which Sampson sometimes frequented. He'd been seen there recently with an over-the-hill Hollywood actress, Fay Estabrook. The bar features a torch singer, Betty Fraley, who also seems to have palled with Sampson. We run into a "religious mystic" who has a mountain top refuge, donated, it seems by Sampson, but the guy is pretty clearly a fraud and is doing something not-so-kosher on the side. Then there's Archer's old pal from his days working for the DA, Albert Graves, who left the DA office to become the family lawyer. Graves has a mad crush on Miranda, which means he has no love for Taggert.
I dunno, there's lots of other stuff going on, floozies and mashers, gun men and dead bodies, all the good stuff of noir fiction. It's quite well written. Based on my limited sample of two, I'd say Ross Macdonald is close to Raymond Chandler in the quality of his writing, a quality well above that of Dashiell Hammett (not difficult, Hammett had great plot lines, but wooden prose). I foresee much more Macdonald in my future, thanks to my new library card. Who knew there was anything good one could say about Woburn?