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Ross Macdonald

4.20  ·  Rating Details  ·  65 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
When he died in 1983, Ross Macdonald was the best-known and most highly regarded crime-fiction writer in America. Now, in the first full-length biography of this extraordinary and influential writer, a much fuller picture emerges of a man to whom hiding things came as second nature. While it was no secret that Ross Macdonald was the pseudonym of Kenneth Millar - a Santa Ba ...more
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published March 12th 1999 by Scribner Book Company
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Bill  Kerwin
Mar 05, 2016 Bill Kerwin rated it it was amazing

Kenneth Millar had a childhood worthy of a psychopath: a domineering granny, a feckless mother, a wayward father--and that's just for starters. He was having sex with other boys when he was eight, drinking, stealing and brawling at twelve. When he was sixteen, he decided to make a list of all of the places he had lived to date, and quit when he got to fifty. Late in high school, he began to scare himself: he knew he was angry enough to kill, and could sense the murderer within. It was then that
Jun 19, 2011 Kirk rated it really liked it
Strikes me that there are at least two types of biography. There are those written to establish the record, and then there are those written to interpret the established record. Interesting to read some of the responses to Tom Nolan's bio of Kenneth Millar. I think the minor discontent that bubbles up with the book (ie. too long, repetitive here and there) has to do with the fact that this opus noir falls into the former category. It's exhaustively researched and focused on specifics. In a way i ...more
Jul 07, 2009 Ed rated it it was amazing
Outstanding, in-depth bio. of RM by Wall Street reviewer, Tom Nolan.
Rachel Bayles
Jan 30, 2012 Rachel Bayles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gives you hope that being decent is not a lost art form.
Aug 09, 2015 Tony rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
ROSS MACDONALD, A Biography. (1999). Tom Nolan. ****.
Nolan, relying on his journalism background, has put together a comprehensive life of Ross Macdonald, the famous novelist who created the well-known hero, Lew Archer. Although Macdonald consistently wanted to write a book that fell into his interests of, ultimately, earning a living, he was constantly thrown back to his works in the hard-boiled genre of detective fiction. Using resources scattered throughout the U.S. and Canada, Nolan has reve
RB Love
Mar 16, 2009 RB Love rated it liked it
Shelves: books-read-2009
Tough read really. A biography of a good writer, a real pro and consequently, it is a book about a guy who wrote. With great discipline. He also swam in the ocean and bird watched and owned dogs and had a daughter who killed a kid in a hit and run at a young age and never quite recovered. He grew up like an orphan really. Bounced from Northern California through Canada to Michigan and wound up in Santa Barbara. As a result of reeading this book, i plan to get deeply into his actual works, which ...more
Sep 21, 2008 Emily rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Ross Macdonald, fans of mysteries, those who like well-researched and detailed biographies
Recommended to Emily by: Gary
Shelves: nonfiction
One would think that Macdonald's biographer might be a little more poetic, but this is all very matter-of-fact. Nonetheless, it's absolutely fascinating, and it's making me want to go back and re-read all the Macdonald mysteries I've already read and read all those I haven't.

Update: remained absolutely fascinating to finish. Not only an interesting portrait of the man, but also an interesting history of the genre and even a bit of a history of the publishing industry.
Sep 14, 2008 Gabriel rated it really liked it
Shelves: shadow-man
Over 400 pages, but interesting throughout, Nolan has certainly done a thorough (and Herculean) job with this biography. His subject, already seen at one remove ("Ross Macdonald") was, by all accounts, a dauntingly private man, not to mention one who was careful to parse every sentence he heard or uttered, leaving very little behind for any potential biographer. Getting 400 quality pages must have been quite a challenge.
Alan Hoffman
I recommend this. Good book about an interesting man - who wanted to write stories that were both literary and part of a genre.

Said he almost didn't want to start writing because he didn't think he would do it as well as D.H. Lawrence.

Also, it was something of a struggle to finish his last book because he was losing his mental sharpness.
Jul 27, 2009 Beth rated it really liked it
Thanks to Ed Lynskey for recommending this excellent biography of Ross Macdonald (pseudonym of Kenneth Millar). One of Macdonald/Millar's most valuable contributions was to shift hard-boiled detective fiction from pure genre to literary. Nolan's examination of Macdonald/Millar's life explains (to some extent) how and why he was able to do this.
Linwood Barclay
Dec 14, 2014 Linwood Barclay rated it it was amazing
A comprehensive, brilliantly researched bio on the author of the Lew Archer novels.
Vincent Martini
Apr 08, 2014 Vincent Martini rated it really liked it
Insightful look into one of the best crime/thriller authors of the 20th century.
Jan 20, 2010 Missmath144 rated it really liked it
This was a great companion to Ross's books. It gives insight to his writings.
Nov 05, 2010 Philip rated it liked it
Not to diminish or denigrate Macdonald, but considering that he wrote one basic type of novel, this bio is way too long and redundant - some judicious editing would have helped; the author apparently decided not to interfere with the natural speech of people he interviewed, so there are many "gonna's" "gotta's" and "lotta's" in their recollections. The constant comparisons of Macdonald to Hammett and Chandler - and the frequent mention of the latter two names - become almost annoying.
Doug Cummings
Apr 16, 2008 Doug Cummings rated it liked it
This is a bit ponderous but highly informative.
Aug 15, 2008 Jim rated it it was amazing
Ross Macdonald is always mentioned in the same breath as Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. And of the three, Macdonald was the most literate.

Here now is the full story of how Ken Millar of Ontario became Ross Macdonald of Santa Barbara, California. Biographer Tom Nolan traces Millars origins from an anonymous birth in the Bay Area to a bleak childhood spent mostly in Ontario.

If his creation, Lew Archer, seemed like an outsider, it might have been because Millar/Macdonald spent his life as a
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