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Books crime fiction

The Galton Case

Top of the heap # 3

For a novel that is hardly 250 pages, I did take a lot of time in finishing Ross Macdonald’s eight novel featuring his private detective Lew Archer.

Anyone who has read Raymond Chandler would recognize the name Ross Macdonald from his quote that appears frequently on the Philip Marlowe books; ” Chandler wrote like a slumming angel” it would say.

I was no stranger to Ross Macdonald, having read the first two novels and seen one of the Paul Newman films; but the novelist’s apparent claim to Chandler’s lineage did not sit well with me.

Until today.

Like most great novels, this appears to be about something and then ultimately about something else, something deeper and filled with true emotion; here the something is a 20 year old missing son case that Archer takes up with little hope.

Social commentary should be your protagonist’s second language if you do wish to find a place in Chandler’s family tree; but Lew Archer is not the detective who has a witticism ready for any occasion- he doesn’t want to prove his worth in words or in wisdom.

The quality of being there and yet not being there is Ross Macdonald’s greatest achievement in creating this protagonist; he balances the novel with the right amount of depth and cool, without ever having to show off. This quality, by no ways a reflection of poor prose but restraint and ultimately treating his characters as though they were real and he caring about them, and yet not trying to get a tear out of us by pumping in pity.

Lew Archer, named one half for the writer of Ben-hur and the other half as a hat-tip (pen-tip?) to another crime writing great, prods along never resorting to unnecessary judgement but carrying on with the case, the Galton case. (I mean)

I often feel that a success of the crime novel lies in the moments that when I stop being the reader and become the detective; the Galton Case is filled with many such excellent moments but there also moments where other characters too become identifiable.

One of the all time greats; it’s the novel where I could relish a distinguished voice of Ross Macdonald and one which I hope to return for years and years.

As fate would have it- in a novel about finding one’s true identity.

Over to the next one.

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Books cinema:english Essay Essential viewing Movie Notes Uncategorized

Out of The Past: Farewell, My Lovely (1975)

 

FML6 copyI have concluded that reading Raymond Chandler at an impressionable age has contributed the most to my further life choices, be it ‘literature’, movies, terse sentences and of course typing in the ‘courier new’ font.

Chandler started writing when the oil industry crashed and he had nothing much left to do, his creation reflects himself; being weary is his core competence.

If I could go back and play the irritating game invented for social engagement, ‘describe your creation in just one word’, Chandler would have said “tired”. If he was kind, he would add, “I’m tired. Enough!” As always breaking the rules.

So when there is a delay in our usual blog posts, it is probably because we are generally tired. Tired of ourselves, tired of the world, tired and yet careful not to add the growing empty mass that is film writing.  Readers must be thankful in that case.

We forgot to add one word to the above: growing boring empty mass that is film writing.

Boring.

 

 “You’re a very good-looking man to be in this kinda business”

Enter Robert Mitchum

Marlowe is supposed to be in his mid-thirties in the works, curiously but not unnatural the best portrayals of the private eye has come from very old ‘has-seen-it-all’ men.

Bogart was in his forties and Robert Mitchum almost touching sixty, it’s that kind of a role. It requires that kind of experience, it is the ‘hamlet’ of all detective roles, no I’m not joking. A sequel to the Big Sleep was called ‘Perchance to Dream’ which is from the famous of all famous soliloquies.

People and war have made our hero tired, and out of this tiredness comes sparkling wisdom.

Why does Marlowe still do it?

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For the much quoted “25 dollars a day plus expenses?”

Nah, Marlowe doesn’t snoop around for money, but he doesn’t evoke moral mightiness too, he certainly doesn’t identify with a cause or putting criminal behind bars. Thankfully he is not insufferable with his ‘genius’ and actually very funny, like a real person.

I guess he just likes looking at people and what they do.

Looking brings us to Robert Mitchum, in many ways the spiritual remnant of Bogart’s distant masculinity, but looking at Mitchum’s eyes we know that this present sadness had once seen sparkle, that alone makes me feel that Mitchum is truer as Marlowe.

Marlowe watches because he knows that deep down all the depravity there is some tenderness, that’s all he looks for in a client, not money, not name, not fame. And he will do anything to look at that tiny true part of yourself.

Evil doesn’t startle him as much as innocence and goodness

People first, plot go to hell

 

For Chandler, the plot was secondary, the characters weren’t, he would never describe anyone unfairly nor would he puncture them for the sake of plot.

An open opponent of this whole locked room plotting business made him see people as people and not as clues or alibi to get going to the next page.

Marlowe is the same wise-ass to the police as he is to the crooks. An ending in a Chandler story is not its logical conclusion or hurrah for its hero, but the acceptance of reality.

The thread of Farewell My Lovely the film is very simple and it follows the book closely, just out of jail thug Moose Malloy wants to get his girl back. Will Marlowe do it or not?

And the hits keep on coming

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Marlowe is always narrating his tale, when we meet him he is just out of a case, naturally tired; Mitchum looks like he just wants to go home but cannot when confronted by his innocent of a thug client.

Within moments Marlowe becomes the centre-piece of a worm caught in a web, and all he does is just give a sideward glance.

Very easy to be dismissed as non-acting, especially in the age that we live in (as in the golden age of non-acting); but I think tiredness is difficult to bring out as an emotion without being dramatic.

Mitchum gets hit on the head, shot at, danced with, seduced by, but all through the film but he plays it like a detective who knows the ending every single time, people will be people.

I don’t really care about the twist in the end

There is a twist in the end, but the film (naturally the novel) is not moving towards it a big reveal way, for fans of detective fiction and crime thrillers this could prove dampening.

Many things happen and so does a twist.

Detection truly could be one of the most boring jobs if not for the humongous amounts of exciting literature written about it.

<pause for reflection>

Maybe all jobs are boring or it is the nature of them to become boring. But somehow Marlowe and hence Mitchum(because of his ability to understand the character) seem to have cracked it.

This detective is a seeker of the intangible, something remote and indescribable as human kindness, that is his spiritual quest, something not even the thighs of a femme fatale or the muzzle of a gun could distract him from.

Hamlet of the detective class, indeed.

That’s an admirable state to be in and this is an admirable movie.

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Out of the past is our series on movies that are anything but current,new,fresh etc; we find the idea of film writing just for the sake of a movie release distressing and also it demeans the timelessness of film itself. Mad or what, we won’t be reviewing old films,just writing about them.