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I listened to about 6 MacDonald books when you mentioned him years ago. I don't remember the names--I think this has to do with the fact that I didn't read them, but listened to them--but I really liked them. I like them better than Hammett's or Chandler's, and I like them. I always planned to read more, but you know how that goes.

BTW, one of my favorite images is by Kuniysohi. I wrote about it here.


That is a great image. I'd seen that post before, of course, but obviously the artist's name didn't stick with me.

The more I thought about this, this more unlikely it seemed that Utagawa Kuniyoshi would have painted the picture described above, so I poked around and found that there is a later artist, Yosua Kuniyoshi whose work Ayres is likely to be talking about. I can't find the picture described, but he does do still lives and there are similar types of things.


Oh yeah, that has to be it. I assumed when I first read that paragraph that it was referring to some modern artist and was puzzled when I looked up the name, but didn't dig any further. Thank you.

Mr. Ayers was obviously more educated than we are.


That's a strong image Janet

No feeling in my nether limbs or feet

What?! That sounds like something more than wear and tear of the trail.

I have a day off waiting for a friend and hope to be walking on wednesday

I hope so. I'll say a prayer for you.

Valiant Grumpy.


My father is a great mystery fan, and Ross MacDonald was one of the authors I always saw lying around the house but never read. Now I want to! The solitary detectives with eccentric knowledge are my favorites (Adam Dalgliesh, John Appleby). I find myself seeking out older mysteries, because the modern ones all seem to spend way too much time on the detective's sex life.

Anne-Marie, On a recent trip to visit my daughter I got a recent P.D. James mystery to listen to and the whole first CD seemed to be about the sex life of every character in the book. We didn't listen to the rest of it.

I've somehow not heard of John Appleby. I'll have to check him out.


Which P.D. James was that, Janet? I haven't heard of Appleby, either.

I recently read Cover Her Face and was slightly surprised at how little we really get to know Dalgliesh. I guess a big part of the difference between Dalgliesh and Archer is that the Archer books are all first-person narratives.

I also watched the BBC Cover Her Face, which didn't really do justice to the book. And added a whole drug-smuggling connection to the main plot which decidedly did not belong, although I suppose I wouldn't have thought that if I hadn't just read the book.

I think it was The Lighthouse, but I'm not sure. It was last year some time. I see that it was written in 2005. It's not a Dagliesh, I don't think.

Cover Her Face was the first Dagliesh so she probably didn't know him very well herself. She might not have had any intention of developing the character like she did.

The detective in the Josephine Tey books that I'm going to write about appears in one as just a sort of walk-on character.


Looks and reads nicely, Mac. I have a troubled history with these sorts of books. In theory I like them, but I have to read them quite fast to keep up with the action, and then I quickly forget everything about them as a result. I do better with mystery and detective movies. I am smiling at the idea of Ross Macdonald lying around Anne-Marie's house.

'The Lighthouse' was a Dalgliesh. I'm pretty sure that the only non-Dalgliesh book James had written in a long time was the Pemberley one (her last published book, I think).

I read one, maybe ten years ago, that was new at the time, that I thought was good. Not sure of the name--maybe Death in Holy Orders? It could be the one Janet is talking about, as it did have some sexual weirdness. And religious weirdness.

EG, there's a mid-'60s movie called Harper which is basically The Moving Target. Paul Newman plays Harper, supposedly having wanted the name changed from Archer because he had a lucky streak of movies with titles that started with "H" going on. It's a pretty good detective movie on its own terms, but disappointing to me, as I thought Newman's version of Archer/Harper was way off.

No, it wasn't that that Janet was talking about. She would have remembered that.


She just didn't remember it was Dalgliesh.


About sexual and religious weirdness in P.D. James' books -- I haven't read any of her books in a very long time, and so my memory is a bit dim on them, but didn't just about all of them have some of that?

Mac, you did a post on Harper back in 2011 -- worth a re-read!

Oh man. I'm almost afraid to read it --I hope I didn't just contradict myself. I'm sorry to hear that it's that recent.:-/

No, nothing contradictory in it, just more detail, and things like this: "Newman's Harper wears an annoying ironic smirk much of the time, and, even more annoyingly, is constantly chewing gum." That captures pretty much the way Newman usually came across to me when he was young and youngish; he was much more watchable when he was old.

I had forgotten about the chewing gum. *Really* annoying.

I did re-read the post, btw. Looks like my opinion hasn't changed much, either of books or movie.

Also btw, I am covering Week 28 by cheating a bit and reprising an old blog post. I have several promises for August, so am hoping the drought is seasonal. If not, we may not make the full 52. I'm sure I can come up with at least a few more pieces between now and January, but not eight or ten or more. As I remarked to someone a little while ago, it would be easier if we had decided to do 52 Books rather than 52 Authors. There really aren't that many writers with whose whole body of work I'm familiar enough to have confidence of doing them some kind of justice.

I will do Josephine Tey next week.


That would be great. I think I can cover the following week, the 25th. Thank you.

The Children of Men isn't a Dalgliesh, and not even a mystery, but it's one of my favorites. It doesn't have those weirdnesses--it gets sex pretty much right, as I recall, and religion too.
There's one PD Jmes with a lot of weirdness--a secret sex club or something like that, right? I can't remember its title (never reread it). Oddly enough, I can't recognize it from the plots trailers on Amazon.

Appleby is Michael Innes's detective, and he's even more of an egghead than Dalgliesh.

I read Children of Men but didn't care very much for it, and I really wanted to like it. It was interesting but never really caught fire as a narrative for me. Did you see the movie? I thought it was pretty disappointing.

I didn't really enjoy reading Children of Men. I know enjoy isn't the right word--I didn't engage with it--however, I liked what she was trying to do.

The only scene of the movie that I really liked was the one where they are carrying the newborn baby through the war zone and there is absolute silence--almost adoration.


I didn't see the movie.

I picked up the only Ross Macdonald my public library has, The Blue Hammer. It fulfills everything you said, Mac--the plot formula, the disappointment and emptiness, the ancestral guilt, the compassion. It has one little bit about religion, which suggests that Archer was brought up Catholic:
There were times when I almost wished I was a priest. I was growing weary of other people's pain and wondered if a black suit and a white collar might serve as armor against it. I'd never know. My grandmother in Contra Costa County had marked me for the priesthood, but I had slipped away under the fence.

I'm very glad to hear that you liked it. I've only read that one once, and it was probably 20 years ago, and I don't remember a lot about it except thinking that it wasn't quite as good as some of the others.

In the short biographical sketches of Macdonald that I've seen, there's been no mention of his having been raised Catholic. But it wouldn't surprise me at all. It may be that, or it may only be that he was one of those people who intuitively grasps the Catholic sense of sin, guilt, and redemption. There is a scene near the end of one of the books (maybe Black Money) where Archer meets the murderer in a Catholic church (in Mexico, I think), and as I remember there's a very strong desire for redemption there, but no ability to believe.

As an adult he was something of a Freudian and was in therapy for a long time. He was a fairly troubled soul.

The but I quoted takes place in a hospital chapel. Archer has gone there to talk to a victim's daughter; the doctor, seeing that she looks "Spanish," put her into the chapel and called a priest.
Macdonald's characters are good illustration of Chesterton's dictum that the only empirically demonstrable point of dogma is original sin.

The literary scholar Ralph Wood, from Baylor, has written some interesting articles and reviews on P.D. James, making the case for her as a Christian moralist. Don't know if any of them are available online.

I think it would be a pretty convincing case. She was a practicing Anglican, and as far as I can tell a fairly straightforward one, at least not an ideological progressive.

Yes, although I got the impression from one interview I read with her that she may have been more of a culturally conservative Anglican than a deeply believing one.

Yeah, I guess that's more or less the impression I got, too, though I don't remember anything specific to justify it. I read her memoir Time to Be In Earnest, and maybe I picked it up from that.

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