Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Goodbye Look - Ross MacDonald

Penguin modern classics have led me to some fantastic Noir crime finds over the last couple of years (long may it continue) of which Ross Macdonald may well be the pick of the bunch - simply because there are so many of his books to look forward to.

This is the third Macdonald I've read now and there are definite themes emerging. Physcology and physchiatrists are both important. As far as I can remember there's always a doctor around and although their role may be relatively small in this book at least it was pivotal. More important is that an initial crime, one often several years old, will come back to be the catalyst for whatever is happening now - the sins of the fathers are always visited on the children. In this case a gun that was used in a murder 15 years previously keeps turning up at new crime scenes, and that first murder was the result of another crime some 7 years earlier. 

There's something quietly satisfactory about Macdonald's habit of looking back into the past for cause and motive - his complex family based plots clearly owe a lot to the Greek classics (I expect Freud would have approved) which explains the preoccupation with fate and it's habit of pursuing you like so many furies when you've done wrong. 

Truthfully (and by now obviously) I find this book hard to write about. It's atmospheric, intelligent, has the necessarily funny one liners to counterbalance the grimmer moments, and is altogether a pleasure to read, but what it doesn't do is make me think very deeply, or set me off on tangents to explore - which is part of the appeal. The point, for me, of trying to write about any, and generally all of the books I read, is to try and organise my thoughts about them, and most importantly (for me) to remember them so even when i don't have much to say it feels worthwhile to make the effort! 


  1. Lovely post! I've read a few Ross Macdonald novels of late and they have all being dazzlingly good. I find myself having to ration them out though; he wrote quite a few books but all the same I don't want to race through them too quickly. Also, without wishing to sound too shallow, I think Penguin have done him proud with their cover art - I mean The Goodbye Look has pretty much the definitive cover for a late-60s crime noir.

  2. He's excellent isn't he, and I agree about the covers - they really hit the mark.