Monday, October 15, 2012

My apologies to John D. Macdonald

from 2006

A few months ago a number of bloggers decided to make clear their thoughts about the work of John D. MacDonald. They didn't like much of what he'd written. 

As somebody who'd been reading him for fifty-plus years I tried not to be influenced by all the knocks but I did find myself foolishly passing up my monthly JDM re-read. 

Well, today, I took Soft Touch down from the shelf and read half of it in a single sitting. I loved it. JDM's best work was the logical extension of the stories you found in Black Mask. Except, for the most part, they were better written and much more realistic. What JDM did was take crime out of both the drawing room (which Hammett did) and the alley (where it's claimed Hammett and Chandler put it) and plopped it right down in the middle-class of middle-America. 

I think this is what people who prefer standard hardboiled fail to see in the darkness in virtually all his work. Crime is going on for sure but it takes place amid discussions of mortgages, promotions, budgets and the kind of middle-class guilt you don't find in most noir fiction. 

Forgive me father for I have sinned. JDM once talked about the influence of John O'Hara's Appointment in Summara on his work. I see that four or five times a page in most of his novels. And since Appointment is one of my ten all-time favorite American novels, I'm happy JDM was bedazzled by that particular novel and author.


Prashant C. Trikannad said...

I recently read John D. MacDonald's CAPE FEAR (THE EXECUTIONERS) and loved every bit of it. This was my very first novel by the author. You're right about JDM bringing crime into middle-class America as he does in CAPE FEAR, a chilling story through to the last page, with a superb narrative.

Mathew Paust said...

A Flash of Green is my favorite JDM novel. And the movie with Ed Harris did justice to it, I believe.