- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard; Reprint edition (June 3, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0679768068
- ISBN-13: 978-0679768067
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #479,204 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Drowning Pool Paperback – June 3, 1996
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Most writers who work in a specific genre such as science fiction or detective stories write with a comfortable narrowness, their ambitions constricted by well-worn conventions; a rare few attain something much deeper, as the scope of their explorations and the originality of their prose operate in a kind of tension with the genre's confines. Ross Macdonald is one such writer. In a series of 25 novels written between 1944 and 1976, all but five featuring Lew Archer as protagonist, Macdonald picked up the baton dropped by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett and took the genre to new heights.
The Drowning Pool, first published in 1950, is the second Lew Archer novel. It opens in classic hard-boiled fashion, with a well-dressed woman hesitantly engaging Archer's services at his L.A. office. Soon he's digging up secrets in her oil-rich hometown, and the themes that preoccupied Macdonald throughout his career begin to emerge: tormented families, buried secrets that fester through multiple generations, environmental destruction, concealed paternity, and the brutal contrast between rich and poor. Macdonald's later novels--including The Galton Case (1959), The Chill (1964), and The Underground Man (1971)--showed increased maturity and a tone less tied to tradition, but The Drowning Pool returns to the virtues that are the hallmarks of Mcdonald's work: complex and compelling plotting, psychological depth, just enough mayhem, and highly economical prose that routinely rises to something near poetry.
From Library Journal
Published in 1965, 1963, and 1950, respectively, this trio feature Macdonald's hard-boiled private detective Lew Archer. The plots involve murder, deceit, blackmail, sex, and all those other goodies that make for great crime stories.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
I've put this review under this book because it is the first in the series. But my comments apply to all the books in the Lew Archer series. The books are all very good. But the Kindle editions all contain typos.
All of MacDonald's novels exhibit certain basic themes--tormented families, buried secrets that fester through multiple generations, environmental destruction, and the brutal contrast between rich and poor. The key to MacDonald's long running success was Archers realism and authenticity, MacDonald's ability to craft complex yet understandable stories, his mastery of language, and his ability to generate a specific atmosphere of threatening suspense on a consistent basis.
All of the above referenced themes are present in The Drowning Pool, which I think is MacDonald's best novel, though The Underground Man is right up there as well.
MacDonald's novels aren't just mind candy-reading him is a literary experience. I believe that is why he was successful in a sort of restrained way. Escapists will not get into these books-they are too cerebral. If you want to your books affect you, MacDonald and Archer are your kind of guy's.
DP Lyle, Award-winning author of the Jake Longly, Dub Walker, and Samantha Cody thriller series.
Archer's hired to discover who sent his client's husband a letter accusing her of infidelity. Introduced to the family and friends at a party as a Hollywood agent, he is sensitive to the growing tension and explosive atmosphere. The reader knows of course that somebody's going to be murdered, but these early chapters are among the most skillfully written to build suspense that I've ever read.
Written in 1950, the inclusion of a homosexual couple was quite daring although there is not graphic description, and isn't significant enough a factor of the plot to either offend or attract a reader.
Read this and I'm sure you'll find it on your own list of crime classics.
A sad sidenote. Don't rent/watch the insipid Paul Newman/Joanne Woodward movie 'loosely' based on the book. Instead of LA they set it in New Orleans and they basically rearranged all the characters into pale versions of their literary counterparts. Just thought I'd let you know.
The plot of The Drowning Pool is complex enough to be interesting without being convoluted or forced. Greed, blackmail, homosexuality and family dysfunction all play roles in advancing the nicely paced narrative. Thrown in for good measure are seductive women, a number of action scenes and a Lolita like teenager named Cathy.
MacDonald's very descriptive prose is quite effective. And there's plenty of memorable dialogue. My personal favorite: "Your reminiscences fascinate me. May I take notes?"
You'd be hard pressed to find a more satisfying example of noir crime writing. An enthusiastic 5 stars.