For some reason, I stumbled across an article on my telephone, from The New Repbulic
, about how Ross Macdonald was every bit as good, if not better, than Raymond Chandler, when it came to writing hard-boiled, noir detective fiction. So, I had to find me some Ross Macdonald. I have a vague feeling I'd tried doing this before, and none was to be found in my local library. But, the Boston Public Library did have a few Macdonald's available for us Kindle folk. So, I began my Macdonald investigations with this particular book.
So, we're in Hollywood in the 1950s. Lew Archer is called to The Channel Club to meet with Clarence Bassett, the club's manager. It seems Bassett wants Archer to "dispose of" an annoyance, one George Wall. Wall, who claims to be married to Hester Campbell, claims she's run out on him, in Toronto, and is likely back in Southern California, and likely with one of the Channel Club's richest, most influential members, Simon Graff, the movie mogul. On his way into the club, Archer had already run into Wall. On the way out, he tries to chase Wall off, but Wall begs Archer to find his wife. Archer agrees to do that.
So, Archer begins looking for the wife, and along the way runs into a variety of weird occurrences: some folks seem suddenly to have garnered magic movie contracts, despite having no prior skill; some folks, who were thriving, suddenly find themselves on the down-hill slide; floozies and drunks wander into and out of the scenes; etc. Along the way, bodies start piling up, gangsters drift in and out, Archer and others get the crap beaten out of them, and so forth. All the good stuff of hard-boiled, noir novels. The one thing missing is that Archer doesn't appear to live on a steady diet of whiskey, unlike Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade.
Anyway, this is quite good, albeit a bit convoluted. I'll definitely be hunting me some more Archer.
Interestingly, I just discovered that one can take a class at an Ivy League college in Hard-Boiled and Noir Crime Fiction
. Who knew life's gutter creatures had ascended the ivory towers of academia?