As Crimezine exclusively revealed several months ago Hollyweird kook-mongers the Coen brothers are turning Ross Macdonald’s 1965 murder mystery Black Money into box office big-bucks. And about time too we hear you shout.
Those familiar with the work of Ross Macdonald will realize immediately the depth of ambition required to batter one of his deliciously enigmatic and smoothly circuitous books into a square-peg slab of cinematography. How will it be possible?
Macdonald’s writing was perhaps so influential because of its ethereal and compelling nature. Delightful similes drip from every paragraph. Learned allusions and literary in jokes lead to smarty-panted chortles and cloth-brained internet trawls—so the rest of us can dig what the great man was rattling on about. Because Ross Macdonald was not only a great writer—he was also a big-league brain-box and if readers were too goddamned stupid to keep up, they would have to rush back to the book store to dig out the latest pulp by Mickey Spillane or John Creasy.
Chandleresque is a word perhaps fist coined for the work of Ross Macdonald. Indeed his first novels were so slavishly Chandleresque that the owlish éminence grise of crime fiction managed to rouse himself momentarily from a drunken puddle on his kitchen floor to grumble with much ill-humor, that mild-mannered Macdonald was, “No sort of writer at all”.
Unlike Chandler however, Macdonald had a monstrous work ethic and managed within his lifetime [He died in 1983] to channel out a glorious sub-genre of SoCal detective fiction that has been widely influential. Private eye Lew Archer is the thinking mans Marlowe, Sam Spade sans the Bogartian bluster. Archer is wry and relentless, a man consumed to discover the truth, no matter what it takes.
Black Money sees Archer summoned to the fictional town Montevista. [Which may or may not be La Jolla, a fact that must have rankled with local resident Chandler] to discover why the lithesome love interest of portly trust-fund toff Peter Jamieson prefers the company of a roguish Frenchie-foreigner named Martel.
It would seem like an open and shut case, as aside from cold hard cash, it would appear that whining windbag Jamieson doesn’t have much to offer a young woman of beauty and ambition. But wouldn’t you just know it—as soon as Archer arrives, the bodies start falling thick and fast. Yerk alors, mes amis!
The title has wide metaphorical implications, as you would perhaps expect with a novel by Ross Macdonald. But seeing as you are so desperate to know, it wouldn’t be too much of a spoiler to reveal that IRS-free Vegas skim money is involved.
In Black Money, as with all Archer novels, there is a confluence of greed and murder where great wealth meets endless waters of the Pacific Ocean. But it doesn’t end there. Hell no. This is a tale of twisted lust and fragile innocence turned cold and vampiric. Meet a parade of swinishness and Machiavellian nastiness the like of which you have never witnessed—everyone Archer encounters has an angle and a certain cold ugliness. The twists and turns are endless. Macdonald likes to change character names half way through—he likes to kill off lead characters and have us believe others are important when they are not. When it comes to convoluted ingenuity and twisted reasoning, Ross Macdonald is an unparalleled master of the genre.
So what will the Cohn brothers make of all this bad craziness? Well, their off-the-wall humor and non-linear style is well suited to the work of Ross Macdonald. Joel Silver is set to produce the movie and the valiant escapade is being backed by [Black Money?] from Warner Brothers. So will Steve Buscemi and John Goodman be involved? Will Gorgeous George Clooney play Archer? Watch this space Crimeziners Because Crimezine is right on the Black Money every time.