Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Secret Passion For Mercy

Justice as blood, agony and revenge came up in William Goldman’s MARATHON MAN a week or so ago, but Ross Macdonald’s private detective Lew Archer offers a rather different take in THE GOODBYE LOOK. To wit:
  “That isn’t your real motivation,” [she said]. “I know your type. You have a secret passion for justice. Why don’t you admit it?”
  “I have a secret passion for mercy,” I said. “But justice is what keeps happening to people.”
  Mercy isn’t a quality we usually associate with the crime / mystery / thriller genre, but it’s probably why Ross Macdonald is one of the enduring greats, and why he is considered a superior – or more sophisticated, at least – writer when compared to his predecessors, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.
  I still hold a candle for Chandler, but maybe that’s because I’ve read virtually everything Chandler wrote and I’ve only read four or five of Macdonald’s novels so far.
  Tobias Jones had a very nice piece on Ross Macdonald in the Guardian way back in 2009, in which he writes about the evolution of Macdonald as a writer, from being a disciple of Hammett and Chandler to outstripping both in terms of his ambition for the private detective novel. He also quotes Macdonald on plot:
“It should be as complex as contemporary life, but balanced enough to say true things about it. The surprise with which a detective novel concludes should set up tragic vibrations which run backward through the entire structure.”
  The full piece is here

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