“That isn’t your real motivation,” [she said]. “I know your type. You have a secret passion for justice. Why don’t you admit it?”Mercy isn’t a quality we usually associate with the crime / mystery / thriller genre, but it’s probably why Ross Macdonald is one of the enduring greats, and why he is considered a superior – or more sophisticated, at least – writer when compared to his predecessors, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.
“I have a secret passion for mercy,” I said. “But justice is what keeps happening to people.”
I still hold a candle for Chandler, but maybe that’s because I’ve read virtually everything Chandler wrote and I’ve only read four or five of Macdonald’s novels so far.
Tobias Jones had a very nice piece on Ross Macdonald in the Guardian way back in 2009, in which he writes about the evolution of Macdonald as a writer, from being a disciple of Hammett and Chandler to outstripping both in terms of his ambition for the private detective novel. He also quotes Macdonald on plot:
“It should be as complex as contemporary life, but balanced enough to say true things about it. The surprise with which a detective novel concludes should set up tragic vibrations which run backward through the entire structure.”The full piece is here …