Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
According to Macdonald, he and young John Galton in The Galton Case have much in common, including “a sense of displacement, a feeling that, no matter where we were, we were on the alien side of some border. . . . like dubious claimants to a lost inheritance.” Among Macdonald’s notebook jottings about the novel is the statement, “Oedipus angry vs. parents for sending him away into a foreign country,” and he has written that the book “was shaped not in imitation exactly, but in awareness of . . . early Greek models.”
The action begins twenty years after Anthony Galton has dropped out of sight with his pregnant wife, a woman of dubious background whom his wealthy parents rejected. His elderly mother’s attorney hires Lew Archer to solve the mystery, which the detective does easily, largely because of an extraordinary streak of good luck. Having ascertained that Galton became a poet with the pen name “John Brown,” Archer locates the missing man’s remains. This is only the beginning of the story, however, for Archer also happens upon a young man who may be Galton’s son, a twenty-two-year-old calling himself John Brown, Jr., and bearing an uncanny resemblance to his supposed father. Archer suspects that he is an imposter, however, so with one case done, the private eye embarks on another—to establish the identity of John Brown, Jr.
Thus begins an odyssey taking Archer throughout California as well as to Nevada,...
(The entire section is 978 words.)
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