Ross Macdonald

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Ross Macdonald
Ross macdonald.jpg
BornKenneth Millar
(1915-12-13)December 13, 1915
Los Gatos, California
DiedJuly 11, 1983(1983-07-11) (aged 67)
Santa Barbara, California
Pen nameJohn Macdonald, John Ross Macdonald, Ross Macdonald
OccupationNovelist
NationalityAmerican–Canadian
Alma mater University of Michigan
Genre Crime fiction
Spouse Margaret Millar
Children1

Ross Macdonald is the main pseudonym that was used by the American-Canadian writer of crime fiction Kenneth Millar ( /ˈmɪlər/ ; December 13, 1915 – July 11, 1983). He is best known for his series of hardboiled novels set in Southern California and featuring private detective Lew Archer.

Crime fiction genre of fiction focusing on crime

Crime fiction, detective story, murder mystery, mystery novel, and police novel: These terms all describe narratives that centre on criminal acts and especially on the investigation, either by an amateur or a professional detective, of a serious crime, generally a murder. It is usually distinguished from mainstream fiction and other genres such as historical fiction or science fiction, but the boundaries are indistinct. Crime fiction has multiple sub-genres, including detective fiction, courtroom drama, hard-boiled fiction and legal thrillers. Most crime drama focuses on crime investigation and does not feature the court room. Suspense and mystery are key elements that are nearly ubiquitous to the genre.

Hardboiled tough personality, usually as a fiction genre

Hardboiled fiction is a literary genre that shares some of its characters and settings with crime fiction. The genre's typical protagonist is a detective who witnesses the violence of organized crime that flourished during Prohibition (1920–1933) and its aftermath, while dealing with a legal system that has become as corrupt as the organized crime itself. Rendered cynical by this cycle of violence, the detectives of hardboiled fiction are often antiheroes. Notable hardboiled detectives include Philip Marlowe, Mike Hammer, Sam Spade, Lew Archer, and The Continental Op.

Southern California Place in California, United States

Southern California is a geographic and cultural region that generally comprises California's southernmost counties, and is the second most populous urban agglomeration in the United States. The region contains ten counties: Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Ventura, and Kern counties.

Contents

Brought up in the province of Ontario, Canada, Macdonald eventually settled in the state of California, where he died in 1983.

Life

Millar was born in Los Gatos, California, and raised in his Canadian parents' native Kitchener, Ontario, where he started college. When his father abandoned his family unexpectedly, Macdonald lived with his mother and various relatives, moving several times by his 16th year. In Canada, he met and married Margaret Sturm in 1938. They had a daughter, Linda, who died in 1970.

Los Gatos, California Town in California, United States

Los Gatos is an incorporated town in Santa Clara County, California, United States. The population is 30,391 according to the 2013 United States Census Bureau. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Los Gatos is ranked the 33rd wealthiest city in the United States. It is located in the San Francisco Bay Area at the southwest corner of San Jose in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, with a population of 41,544 as of 2017. Los Gatos is part of Silicon Valley, with several high technology companies maintaining a presence there. Notably, streaming and content creator Netflix is headquartered in Los Gatos and has developed a large presence in the area. It was in Los Gatos that The Bean Spray Pump Company was founded, which later became the FMC Corporation.

Kitchener, Ontario City in Ontario, Canada

Kitchener is a city in the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, Ontario. Located approximately 100 km (62 mi) west of Toronto, Kitchener is the regional seat. It was called the Town of Berlin from 1854 until 1912 and the City of Berlin from 1912 until 1916.

Margaret Ellis Millar was an American-Canadian mystery and suspense writer.

Millar began his career writing stories for pulp magazines and used his real name for his first four novels. Of these he completed the last, The Dark Tunnel, in 1944. After serving at sea as a naval communications officer from 1944 to 1946, Millar returned to Michigan, where he obtained his Ph.D. degree in literature.

For his fifth novel, in 1949, he wrote under the name John Macdonald in order to avoid confusion with his wife, who was achieving her own success writing as Margaret Millar. He then changed his pen name briefly to John Ross Macdonald, before settling on Ross Macdonald in order to avoid being confused with fellow mystery writer John D. MacDonald, who was writing under his real name. Millar would use the pseudonym "Ross Macdonald" on all his fiction from the mid '50s forward.

John Dann MacDonald was an American writer of novels and short stories, known for his thrillers.

In the early 1950s, he returned to California, settling for some thirty years in Santa Barbara, the area where most of his books were set. In these the city in which Lew Archer is based goes under the fictional name of Santa Teresa. In 1983 Macdonald died of Alzheimer's disease.

Santa Barbara, California City in California, United States

Santa Barbara is a coastal city in, and the county seat of, Santa Barbara County in the U.S. state of California. Situated on a south-facing section of coastline, the longest such section on the West Coast of the United States, the city lies between the steeply rising Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Santa Barbara's climate is often described as Mediterranean, and the city has been promoted as the "American Riviera". As of 2014, the city had an estimated population of 91,196, up from 88,410 in 2010, making it the second most populous city in the county after Santa Maria. The contiguous urban area, which includes the cities of Goleta and Carpinteria, along with the unincorporated regions of Isla Vista, Montecito, Mission Canyon, Hope Ranch, Summerland, and others, has an approximate population of 220,000. The population of the entire county in 2010 was 423,895.

Santa Teresa has been used by several authors as the name of an invented city.

Alzheimers disease Progressive, neurodegenerative disease characterized by memory loss

Alzheimer's disease (AD), also referred to simply as Alzheimer's, is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and gradually worsens over time. It is the cause of 60–70% of cases of dementia. The most common early symptom is difficulty in remembering recent events. As the disease advances, symptoms can include problems with language, disorientation, mood swings, loss of motivation, not managing self care, and behavioural issues. As a person's condition declines, they often withdraw from family and society. Gradually, bodily functions are lost, ultimately leading to death. Although the speed of progression can vary, the typical life expectancy following diagnosis is three to nine years.

Work

Macdonald first introduced the tough but humane private eye Lew Archer in the 1946 short story "Find the Woman" (credited then to "Ken Millar"). A full-length novel featuring him, The Moving Target , followed in 1949 and was the first in a series of eighteen. Macdonald mentions in the foreword to the Archer in Hollywood omnibus that his detective derives his name from Sam Spade's partner, Miles Archer, and from Lew(is) Wallace, author of Ben-Hur , though he was patterned on Philip Marlowe.

Lew Archer is a fictional character created by American-Canadian writer Ross Macdonald. Archer is a private detective working in Southern California. Between the late 1940s and the early 1970s, the character appeared in 18 novels and a handful of shorter works as well as several film and television adaptations. Macdonald's Archer novels have been praised for building on the foundations of hardboiled fiction by introducing more literary themes and psychological depth to the genre. Critic John Leonard declared that Macdonald had surpassed the limits of crime fiction to become "a major American novelist" while author Eudora Welty was a fan of the series and carried on a lengthy correspondence with Macdonald. The editors of Thrilling Detective wrote: "The greatest P.I. series ever written? Probably."

<i>The Moving Target</i> novel by Ross Macdonald

The Moving Target is a 1949 mystery novel by American writer Ross Macdonald, who at this point used the name "John Macdonald".

Sam Spade fictional private detective

Sam Spade is a fictional private detective and the protagonist of Dashiell Hammett's 1930 novel, The Maltese Falcon. Spade also appeared in four lesser-known short stories by Hammett.

The novels were hailed by genre fans and literary critics alike. [1] The Lew Archer novels are recognized as some of the most significant American mystery books of the mid 20th century, bringing a literary sophistication to the genre. The critic John Leonard declared that Macdonald had surpassed the limits of crime fiction to become "a major American novelist". [2] He has also been called the primary heir to Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler as the master of American hardboiled mysteries. [3]

Macdonald's writing built on the pithy style of his predecessors by adding psychological depth and insights into the motivations of his characters. [4] Their plots of "baroque splendor" were complicated and often turned on Archer's unearthing family secrets of upwardly mobile clients, sometimes going back over several generations. [5] Lost or wayward sons and daughters were a theme common to many of the novels. [6] Critics have commented favorably on Macdonald's deft combination of the two sides of the mystery genre, the "whodunit" and the psychological thriller. [7] Even his regular readers seldom saw a Macdonald denouement coming.

Screenwriter William Goldman, who adapted Macdonald's stories to film, called his works "the finest series of detective novels ever written by an American". [1] Tom Nolan in his Ross Macdonald, A Biography, [8] wrote, "By any standard he was remarkable. His first books, patterned on Hammett and Chandler, were at once vivid chronicles of a postwar California and elaborate retellings of Greek and other classic myths. Gradually he swapped the hard-boiled trappings for more subjective themes: personal identity, the family secret, the family scapegoat, the childhood trauma; how men and women need and battle each other, how the buried past rises like a skeleton to confront the present. He brought the tragic drama of Freud and the psychology of Sophocles to detective stories, and his prose flashed with poetic imagery."

Over his career, Macdonald was presented with only two awards. In 1974, he received the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America, and in 1982 he received "The Eye", the Lifetime Achievement Shamus Award from the Private Eye Writers of America.

Bibliography

Chet Gordon (as Kenneth Millar)

Lew Archer novels

  1. The Moving Target – 1949 (filmed with Paul Newman as Harper , 1966)
  2. The Drowning Pool – 1950 (also filmed with Paul Newman as The Drowning Pool , 1975)
  3. The Way Some People Die – 1951
  4. The Ivory Grin (aka Marked for Murder) – 1952
  5. Find a Victim – 1954
  6. The Barbarous Coast – 1956
  7. The Doomsters – 1958
  8. The Galton Case – 1959
  9. The Wycherly Woman – 1961
  10. The Zebra-Striped Hearse – 1962
  11. The Chill – 1964
  12. The Far Side of the Dollar – 1965 (1965 CWA Gold Dagger Award winner)
  13. Black Money – 1966
  14. The Instant Enemy – 1968
  15. The Goodbye Look – 1969 (filmed as Tayna 1992)
  16. The Underground Man – 1971 (filmed as a television series pilot in 1974)
  17. Sleeping Beauty – 1973
  18. The Blue Hammer – 1976
  19. The Archer Files, The Complete Short Stories of Lew Archer Private Investigator, Including Newly Discovered Case Notes, ed. Tom Nolan – Crippen & Landru, 2007. This contains the contents of The Name Is Archer, the additional stories in Lew Archer, Private Investigator, and the three stories in Strangers in Town. The story "Death by Water" is changed (with the estate's permission) to feature Lew Archer rather than Joe Rogers. The book also includes eleven "case notes" – beginnings of novels or short stories that Macdonald never completed. The story Guilt-Edged Blonde was adapted into the 2002 French film The Wolf Of The West Coast (Le loup de la côte ouest). [9]

Lew Archer short story collections

Lew Archer omnibuses

British omnibuses

Allison & Busby published three Archer omnibus editions in the 1990s.

Other novels

Millar's first four novels, all non-series standalones, were all initially published using his real name. They have since been intermittently reissued, sometimes as by "Ross Macdonald".

Two later non-series novels were also published. One was credited to John Ross Macdonald, the other simply to Ross Macdonald.

writing as Kenneth Millar

writing as John Ross Macdonald

writing as Ross Macdonald

Non-fiction

See also

Notes

  1. 1 2 Baker, Robert Allen and Michael T. Nietzel (1985). Private Eyes: One Hundred and One Knights : a Survey of American Detective Fiction, 1922–1984. Bowling Green KY: Popular Press. p. 53. ISBN   978-0879723293.
  2. J. Kingston Pierce, "50 Years with Lew Archer: An Anniversary Tribute to Ross Macdonald and his Heroice Yet Passionate Private Eye", January Magazine.
  3. Nickerson, Catherine Ross (2010). "The Detective Story", in A Companion to the American Short Story, edited by Alfred Bendixen & James Nagel. New York: John Wiley & Sons. p. 425. ISBN   978-1405115438.
  4. Miller, Wilbur R. (2012). The Social History of Crime and Punishment in America: An Encyclopedia. Los Angeles: Sage. p. 1019. ISBN   978-1412988766.
  5. Geoffrey O'Brien, Hardboiled America, Van Norstrand Reinhold, 1981, pp.125-8
  6. Jones, Tobias (July 31, 2009). "A passion for mercy". The Guardian. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
  7. Connolly, John and Declan Burke (2012). Books to Die For: The World's Greatest Mystery Writers on the World's Greatest Mystery Novels. London: Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN   978-1451696578.
  8. Tom Nolan, Ross Macdonald, A Biography, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999 ISBN   0-684-81217-7
  9. Ronnie Scheib, The Wolf of the West Coast, Variety, 23 September 2002

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