Monday, November 11, 2013

Down Time and Reading

Despite good intentions, down time happens. I've begun Islamorada Jam, the fifth Jim Dallas novel, but various personal concerns--chiefly illness in the family--have sidetracked that for a while. Happens now and then.

So in the interim, while I don't have sustained time for writing, I can snatch moments for reading. And I'm reading all over the map: 

Don Quixote: I'm reading an old translation (1895) into English of the classic nutty-knight story. It's not as funny as it maybe once was. One thing's for sure, for a fifty-year-old guy Don Quixote could soak up the punishment. He takes beating after beating and like a Timex keeps on ticking.

Ross MacDonald novels:

The Moving Target. The first Lew Archer novel, made into a not-bad movie, Harper, starring Paul Newman. The book is fairly standard hard-boiled California private eye with flashes of the style and approach that would get better and better over the years. Raymond Chandler was asked to blurb the book and acidly declined, saying it was poorly done, but I think that was down to sour grapes. It's actually better than anything Chandler produced between then and his death.

Find a Victim. This one's from 1954, five years along in Archer's career. Hell of a start as Archer, driving through Las Cruces on his way to testify in a case in Sacramento, announces "He was the ghastliest hitchhiker who ever thumbed me." Archer gets the dying man to a hospital, but that's only the beginning. For a small town, Las Cruces is rotten through and through, and we begin to see Archer's obsessive side--I'm reminded of Quixote!--as he becomes fascinated with tangled family relationships and the drive for easy money that's underneath it all.

The Wycherly Woman. Published in 1961, twelve years after Archer's debut, this one settles in to MacDonald's strengths: looking for a missing coed for her irascible father, Archer runs up against a whole intricate web of blackmail, deceit, and deeply-buried family secrets. There's a neat surprise woven into the story, too, as Archer, much against the divorced father's wishes, finds and interviews the alcoholic mom.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you wrote this post, Brad, because I'm still a stranger to Archer. So far, nothing I'd heard had set him apart from Chandler or Hammett. From what you've written, though, I've missed out on a real treat. Will check him out, since he's gained points in my eyes from Chandler's envy.