Saturday, August 8, 2015

(No.292) "Two Macdonalds (Ross & John D.) & several other crime novelists"

"Two Macdonalds (Ross and John D.) and several other 

successful writers of crime novel series"

by Alastair Rickard

One of the pleasures for many readers of fiction is to discover and follow a character one finds interesting, a character who appears and reappears like bees in amber in a writer's work, novel after novel.

I follow as they appear the new novels in series written by a number of current writers as well as working my way through the accumulated works of novelists like Ross Macdonald and John D. MacDonald.

I have devoted this and succeeding columns to several novelists whose series I enjoy.


Ross Macdonald (1915-83) was the principal pseudonym adopted by Kenneth Millar, an American raised in Canada -- mainly in Winnipeg and Kitchener -- who became a leading crime novelist in the U.S. He earned fame from the 1950s on as the creator of a private detective he called Lew Archer whose milieu was California/L.A. 'noir'.

Beginning in 1949 Macdonald/Millar wrote until 1976 a series of 18 Archer novels plus 3 short story collections featuring Archer. They brought to the genre in the United States a new realism combined with intricate mystery narratives.

The Library of America is a non-profit publisher dedicated to preserving (and using higher quality hard cover book editions to do so) the American literary heritage. Its aim is to keep in print "America's best and most significant writing".

It has just published a four novel selection in a single volume of Ross Macdonald's Archer novels: "Ross Macdonald: Four Novels of the 1950s" (2015). It is scheduled to publish in April 2016 a second selection "Ross Macdonald: Three Novels of the Early 1960s".

Ross Macdonald is sometimes confused with his contemporary: American crime novelist John D. MacDonald (1916-86). The latter MacDonald wrote 21 crime/detective novels from 1964 to 1985 featuring a Florida "salvage consultant" named Travis McGee.

While McGee eschewed calling himself a private detective, he was one in the hard-boiled fictional American tradition. The McGee novels are as entertaining reading as the Archer series. Indeed both the Archer and McGee novels easily match if not exceed the overrated 'detective fiction' of the now lionized American novelists identified with California 'noir' Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.

John D. Macdonald's Travis McGee series novels are still available in one form or another including a selected 5 novel compilation: " John D. Macdonald: Five Complete Travis McGee Novels" (1985).

C.J. Box's "Stone Cold" (2014) is the 14th in a series in which the lead character, Joe Pickett, works as a Wyoming state game warden. However his career has gone well beyond his ostensible duties to involve a great deal of rather violent detective work often relating to special assignments from the state's governor. The most recent in the Pickett novels, "Stone Cold", is one of the best among those I have read thus far in this series.

Martin Walker, an English journalist who has spent much of his career in the United States, now divides his time between Washington and the Dordogne region in southwest France. Several years ago he, like many journalists do, decided to try his hand at fiction. Most such non-ficition writers do not become successful novelists but Walker has.

He created a character named Bruno Courreges, a former French soldier who saw active service in Bosnia and elsewhere, left the military and became the chief of police in St.Denis, a small town in the Dordogne region. He gets involved regularly in cases and activity with national implications going well beyond the duties of his official role.

The most recent in the Bruno series, the 6th and 7th, are "Resistance Man" (2013) and "The Children Return" (2014).





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