California Crime writing legend Ross Macdonald has frequently been compared to Chandler, Hammett, and James M. Cain. A darling of crime writers and readers of discernment, Macdonald’s prowess as a crime writer has been highly influential down the years.
But there are others who consider his work difficult, and rather intellectually superior for their tastes, preferring instead the work of others such as the similarly named John D. MacDonald. [Of Travis McGee fame]. The startling reputations of both writers are unassailable. But of all the Macdonald’s writing in the crime genre—Ross Macdonald can be unquestioningly called, The thinking mans crime writer.
The Galton Case is a densely plotted psychological detective mystery featuring Macdonald’s hardboiled private eye Lew Archer. Macdonald once said it was his favorite novel, the best he ever wrote. Which is certainly saying something as he wrote some of the most influential and highly readable detective fiction of the 1950s and 1960s, a time when detective fiction was big news.
Macdonald’s work is highly complex and yet startlingly concise. At just under 240 pages The Galton Case is a cunningly distilled masterpiece. Most modern novelists are pushed to devise such swirling and mysterious conspiracies at anything under 400 pages. The Galton Case also contains some startlingly beautiful language, that is far subtler than Chandler’s frontal assault to the senses; less brutally hardboiled than the work of Hammett, and more thoughtfully intellectual that the gritty nastiness of the Cain oeuvre.
—How intellectual, we hear you ask. Well, there is reference to Rimbaud’s theory of the violation of the senses; there are also many subtly pertinent allusions to Greek myths layered deeply inside the kind of murderously devious plot that will send your head spinning.
The Galton Case kicks off in the fictional California town of Santa Teresa, (A thinly disguised Santa Barbara) when the aging and incredibly wealthy Mrs. Galton hires Archer to find her long lost son. But, what seems at first like a staggeringly impossible missing-persons case quickly evolves into a murderous trail into the past, where everything we understand as real quickly melts away into the swirling mists of the Pacific. Deep delve into the mysterious past, discover beat poetry, gangsters, swindlers and strong-arm racketeers. Discover also, the depths of human frailty and a morally complex imbroglio of family life gone horribly and irrevocably awry.
Written in 1959 The Galton Case is charmingly old fashioned in many respects, but the wit and the intelligence of Ross Macdonald’s writing will remain for many long years to come. You too can be a part of it Crimeziners. Check out The Galton Case. Tell them Crimezine sent you..