The Drowning Pool
Was Macdonald only Chandler’s epigone? The writing has less flash than the master’s, and it’s hard just what to make of Lew Archer. Almost asexual (“I’m a very low-pressure type myself”) but a stud when it’s required; formidably erudite (he likens a broken gambler in Vegas to the young Dostoevsky) and yet taking pains to conceal it (he later feigns ignorance of Proust). Seeing a distorted image of himself in a mirror he describes a “shadow figure without a life of his own who peered . . . through dirty glass at the dirty lives of people in a very dirty world.” Which is trite noir self-portraiture, but the most we get. In this, the second Archer novel, the standard Macdonald plot involving a tortured family history isn’t very convincing, and elements borrowed from Chandler, like the sinister medical clinic, sometimes collapse into parody. But the build-up is still a lot of fun.