The Drowning Pool

The Drowning Pool
Ross Macdonald

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.