Mike's Reviews > The Drowning Pool

The Drowning Pool by Ross Macdonald
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's review
Sep 17, 2011

really liked it
Recommended for: Anyone
Read from September 13 to 15, 2011 , read count: 1

More Ross Macdonald. More Lew Archer. More great American crime/detective writing.

I've read three novels and a collection of short fiction my Mr. Macdonald (nee' Kenneth Millar) now and I remain impressed. I'm still shocked that I had been unaware of this author (except for one excellent short story) for so long - thank you Goodreads! Whether he is writing in s style that reminds one of Dashiell Hammet (some of the early short fiction) or in his fully-developed style of later years, he is an exceptional storyteller.

Although I won't be quoting from it (as I did in a previous review), you can be assured that there is stunningly descriptive prose here as well. I found this book to have a little less use of psychology than in comparison to "The Wycherly Woman" or "The Galton Case". Archer is still the insightful man, but here action and pacing seem to dominate the writing more. Perhaps he was trying to mix things up a bit and keep his character and readers fresh. In any event, it is a great novel one that should appeal to readers of all kinds, not just mystery buffs.

Like all of the long form fiction of his that I have read, this book is full of characters and sub-plots. Archer steps his way through the minefield with his own sense of justice; making friends and enemies despite numerous opportunities to "take the easy way". Like the best of the noir protagonists his inner drive to do what is right forces him to push through to the end no matter how much he loses or gives up to get there.

In this book, Macdonald writes about the development of southern California. And instead of praising the suburbanization of the countryside he describes its negative aspects. While today or even a couple of decades ago this would not be unusual, it is remarkable in a book written in 1950. It's the first wave of post-WWII prosperity and baby boomers, when Ready Watt and nuclear power were the future, but here is a man using his excellent writing talents to showcase how his protagonist and other key characters see development as a thing to be avoided or abhorred. And it is made into a significant part of the novel; one which offers motivation for a number of the major players. And it is not forced: the writing and attitudes flow as naturally and as smoothly as any story you might like. That is skill and Mr. Macdonald had it in buckets.

I don't ever recall seeing the movie made from this novel, so I can't say if it is a decent translation of the book. I do know that the location was shifted from SoCal to New Orleans. I wonder about that as all of the Lew Archer stories that I have read are bound up in the geography and people of California and Nevada.

In danger of repeating myself, I think everyone should pickup this or any Ross Macdonald "Lew Archer" story and treat themselves to a superior story and characters. Enjoy!
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