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The Drowning Pool (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 5 Jul 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (5 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141196629
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141196626
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 300,563 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

The American private eye, immortalised Hammett, refined by Chandler, brought to its zenith by Macdonald (The New York Times Book Review)

About the Author

MacDonald served as president of The Mystery Writers of America in 1965, received the Silver Dagger in 1964 and the Gold Dagger in 1965 from The British Crime Writers Association, and in 1981, received The Eye, the Lifetime Achievement Award from The Private Eye Writers of America.


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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Ross Macdonald had a gift for portraying the bleak, the grey and the shabby. Time and time again he nails the perfect metaphor when describing a person or a situation that has edged from the acceptible and into the faded and the seedy. My personal favourite in The Drowning Pool is the description of an old guy bleached by years in the Californian sun who has 'a week's beard [...] on his folded cheeks like the dusty gray plush in old-fashioned railway coaches'. Macdonald's characters and plots were excellent and complex but his line-for-line writing was absolutely perfect for the material he wished to publish. Make no mistake, Ross Macdonald could really, really write.

In The Drowning Pool Macdonald's world-weary but never despairing detective, Lew Archer, is approached by Maude Slocum - a beautiful woman whose receipt of a poison pen letter is the least of her problems: her daughter is attractive but dangerously sullen; her husband is at last edging out of the closet and she herself is rather too attentive towards one of the local cops. Archer reluctantly takes the case of investigating the poison pen letter but soon finds himself immersed in a world of blackmail, violence and murder. The deeper he delves, the more wretchedly shabby the behaviour he discovers. Nobody is entirely evil and nobody is entirely good: everyone from the icily beautiful Mavis Kilbourne with her toxic husband through to the arch-chancer Pat Reavis, perpetually on the look out for the vulnerable girl and the easy money is a shade of scuffed and grubby grey.

The Drowning Pool is an excellent 1950s American Noir. Lew Archer with his grudging refusal to wash his hands of the deeply flawed people he encounters is a continual delight.
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By Officer Dibble VINE VOICE on 6 Jun. 2016
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Stereotypical start with attractive female appearing in the PI's office. It all sounds like some dodgy blackmail number but Archer takes the case as he's got the hots for her and nothing else to do.

He investigates events surrounding the dysfunctional Sloan family, They are rich and would be stinking rich if only the matriarch would see the benefits of an oil-well in the back garden. Archer receives almost 48 hours of sustained violence in his California home ground whilst Mr Macdonald throws out enough good lines to justify his second tier ranking in the crime writers stakes.

Archer still eludes me. I cannot 'see' him in my mind's eye. The author gives the reader very little in terms of physical description or character. He is simply the locomotive of the story. As a result I appreciate this series of novels but dont relish them.
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Ross MacDonald's Archer shares a lot in common with Chandler's Marlowe; both centres around the doings of a Los Angeles private eye who see's the world through cynical and weary eyes but who nonetheless try their hardest to do some good for a naive and innocent underdog. Whilst MacDonald isn't quite up there when compared with Chandler's descriptive prose and witty dialogue, he still does sometimes come close, (how can anyone beat the master?). What you lose in one-liners you make up with in a well plotted novel and more rounded characters. Both of which aren't exactly Chandler's strengths.

However, the reader must be warned that MacDonald's Lew Archer novels do seem to be rather formulaic; for instance his novels usually include one or more of the following plot devises:
1) A wealthy family hiding a secret from the past which has come back to haunt them,
2) The head of the family is usually a dominatrix who has a strained relationship
with her sons and/or their daughter in laws,
3) A key character that turns out not to be the person he claims to be,
4) Another Key character with important clues who has a nervous breakdown and whose
doctor prevents Archer from questioning them,
5) A lawyer/Doctor who cannot disclose important Patient/Client information.

Some of these plot devices have been used in the Drowning pool. Never the less, it is still a gripping read with plenty of plot twists, which keep you guessing right to the end. If you want to escape to post war LA, then this will give you plenty hours of pleasure. You could almost smell the warm sea breeze coming from the ocean and imagine the palms gently swaying as you drive down the pacific coast highway.
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I'd read Ross Macdonald for enjoyment of the fairly sparky prose, and the descriptions of California, and because he's much better than most of the post Chandlers - I wonder if Joseph Hansen though isn't better than Ross M.
The plots keep you reading, but the solutions are always ridiculous, creakily Freudian: the parents have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge. And his books are always all the same, and always enjoyable, which is so reassuring.
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The Drowning Pool is the second of the highly regarded Lew Archer novels. Published in 1950, it shows MacDonald to be a highly skilled practitioner of the crime genre. The plotting is tight and complex, with surprising twists along the way, the characters are flawed but compelling, and the writing is pacy, cynical and as hard as granite. What is particularly vivid in this story is the way MacDonald sketches the seamy, changing nature of life in this part of California. With the impact of oil, big business and commercialisation, Archer observes a changing way of life coming to the country. This informs his sense of world weariness, and was a theme MacDonald would return to in later volumes.

An engrossing and pacy story, the closing chapters feel a bit strange here and there, and one violent episode reminded me of early Ian Fleming, due to the brutal and slightly sadistic nature of the writing. These books must have seemed quite risque at the times, full as they are of violence and more than a hint of sexual innuendo. One of five stylish titles from MacDonald published by Penguin Modern Classics with elegant artwork covers, the only slight mystery is the attributing of the same quote about the books to William Goldman and James Ellroy. Careless..
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