Archive for November 4, 2008

Ross MacDonald’s real name was Kenneth Millar. He was born near San Francisco in 1915 and raised in Ontario, Millar returned to the US as a young man and published his first novel in 1944. He won the Crime Writer’s Association Gold Dagger in 1965 for The Far Side of The Dollar, and was awarded a Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 1974. 

His detective Lew Archer [changed to Lew Harper] was played by the late Paul Newman in the films The Moving Target and The Drowning Pool.

In The Way Some People Die published in 1951 Lew Archer is asked by Mrs Samuel Lawrence to find her missing daughter, Galatea. She was last seen with a small time hoodlum, Joe Tarantine. Galley has the dangerous good looks that men die for and Archer finds himself driving from Palm Springs to San Francisco as he tries to find Tarantine and a large quantity of heroin. There are some difficult times along the way as Archer finds bodies piling up and runs into big time gangsters, alcoholic actors,hustlers,  heroin pushers and teenage prostitutes before he solves the case. 

Dowser’s a solid citizen. He’s got a swimming pool and a private bar to prove it. He entertains politicians in his charming ranch-type home on an exclusive hilltop. He even supports a butler and a blonde.’

It had been a very long time since I read any Ross MacDonald and found the first person narrative and the very detailed descriptions of rooms and locations  a bit difficult to get used to at first. But the wise cracking dialogue and prose soon had me hooked.

‘He would go on turning a dollar in one way or another until he ended up in Folsom or a mortuary or a house with a swimming pool on top of a hill.’

‘I want to go back to Toledo, where people are nice. I always wanted to live in California, but now that I’ve seen it , it’s a hellish place.’

This is a very good example of the tough guy private eye novel and while it is dated in its attitude to African- Americans and women still well worth the read as it gives an interesting portrait of 1950s California. 


Posted: November 4, 2008 in Uncategorized


1968 was the year when Reverend Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. It was also the year of the My Lai Massacre and the black power salute by Tommy Smith and John Carlos given at the Mexico Olympics. 

Richard Nixon won the election that year and a British politician called Enoch Powell made a speech about Rivers of Blood. 

It was a terrible turbulent  time with the Vietnam War, the crushing of the Prague Spring, and Governor George Wallace of Alabama winning nearly 10 million votes on a pro-segregation platform.

Now 40 years on Senator Barack Obama will be elected President of the USA later today, which shows how much things have changed for the better. 
Whether he will be able to deal with the huge problems he will face after inauguration in January is another matter. I listened last night on the BBC to Harvey Gantt, former Mayor of Charlotte, and first African American to be admitted to Clemson University mention his inexperience with less than three years in the Senate before he began his campaign for the nomination.

Has the electorate been seduced out of thought by charisma? 

President- Elect Obama certainly starts with a fund of  enormous good will from the rest of the world, especially here in the UK. We can only wish him good luck because we need a strong America to get us out of the mess we are in. 

The 1912 election was also one that changed the country and I suspect the four contenders carried both literally and possibly intellectually a bit more weight than the present contenders. But only Teddy Roosevelt was a great moose hunter.

America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral principle. We as a people have such a purpose today. It is to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world.  George H.W. Bush [the senior] Inaugural Address 1989

War should never be entered upon until every agency of peace has failed. 
William McKinley: Inaugural Address 1897

The responsibility of the great states is to serve and not to dominate the world.
Harry Trueman: Address to Congress 1945